Wrigley Pulls Caffeinated Gum Off the Shelves After FDA Investigation

If you liked Wrigley’s Alert Energy Caffeine Gum, then you’ll have to wait a long time before you see it in stores again—if it ever makes it back to the shelves. The company announced they would be pulling the heavily caffeinated gum off the market, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began investigating if the large dose of caffeine in the gum is safe.

“After discussions with the FDA, we have a greater appreciation for its concern about the proliferation of caffeine in the nation’s food supply,” announced Casey Keller, president of Wrigley North America. “There is a need for changes in the regulatory framework to better guide the consumers and the industry about the appropriate level and use of caffeinated products. In an effort to support this process, and out of respect for the FDA, we have paused the production, sales and marketing of Alert.”

The caffeinated gum was on the market for less than a month before it was pulled—but it stirred controversies from the very beginning. One piece of Wrigley’s Alert Energy Caffeine Gum contains 40 grams of caffeine—half the amount of caffeine as a whole cup of coffee. In fact, the FDA deputy commissioner of foods, Michael Taylor, said the gum was like having “four cups of coffee in your pocket.”

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Consumers, along with the FDA, were concerned about the high level of caffeine in a piece of gum, a product easily accessible to children and young adults who should not be consuming large doses of caffeine. According to the latest reports, adults should consume no more than 400 mg of caffeine per day, while children aged four to six should stick to a maximum of 45 mg per day; kids seven to nine years old should have no more than 62.5 mg a day; and kids from 10 to 12 years of age should consume a maximum of 85 mg a day.

While many companies that add caffeine to their food and drink products claim they are marketing to adults, it’s all too easy for kids to find these heavily caffeinated products. A high consumption of caffeine in children has been linked to harmful cardiovascular problems and neurological deficits.

But the temptation to add caffeine to a food product—and get the coveted “energy-boosting” label—can be hard to resist. The popularity of energy drinks has risen in the past five years, with a market value of $37.0 billion. The price of what added caffeine does to our system—and to our health—is still unknown, although there are some reports already linking caffeinated energy drinks with the death of multiple children. In fact, San Francisco is currently suing Monster Beverage Corporation for marketing their heavily caffeinated energy drinks to children.

While the profitability of selling highly caffeinated food and drinks may be huge, the negative effects to our health, particularly if children and pregnant women regularly consume these products, will be astronomical.

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Sources:
“San Francisco sues Monster for marketing energy drinks to kids,” CBS News web site, May 6, 2013; http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-204_162-57583084/san-francisco-sues-monster-for-marketing-energy-drink-to-kids/, last accessed May 23, 2013.
Mills, C., “Caffeinated food available in Canada,” The Toronto Star web site, May 7, 2013; http://www.thestar.com/business/2013/05/07/caffeinated_food_available_in_canada.html, last accessed May 23, 2013.
“Production of Wrigley’s Alert Caffeinated Gum Halted,” CNBC web site, May 9, 2013; http://www.cnbc.com/id/100723414, last accessed May 23, 2013.
Jalonick, M., “Caffeine in gum raises FDA concerns about consumption by kids, teens,” The Toronto Star web site, April 30, 2013; http://www.thestar.com/business/2013/04/30/caffeine_in_gum_raises_fda_concerns_about_consumption_by_kids_teens.html, last accessed May 23, 2013.