Caffeine – The Facts

What is Caffeine?

Caffeine is an ingredient that can be found naturally in the leaves, seeds or fruit of more than 60 plants worldwide and is well known for its stimulating effect. Some of the most commonly known sources of caffeine include coffee beans, tea leaves, cocoa beans, kola nuts, and guarana plants. Caffeine can also be produced synthetically and subsequently added to various foods and beverages, including tea, coffee, cola, chocolate, energy drinks, and iced coffee.

Both natural and synthetic forms of caffeine are enjoyed safely by consumers around the world every day.

Where do Australians get most of their caffeine from?

The single biggest contributor to caffeine in the Australian diet comes from coffee, whether it’s instant coffee, coffee from a coffee machine at home or work, or barista made coffee from a chain store, or your local café or restaurant.

In fact, an August 2013 Galaxy Poll of 1,105 Australians aged 15-49 showed that over 50 % of all caffeine intake comes from coffee products. The remaining share of caffeine intake, is drawn from a variety of sources including cola at 18%, tea at 16%, and energy drinks at 5% but there’s no one single contributor that’s as large as coffee.

Screen Shot 2013-08-27 at 3.39.05 PM

THE SAFETY OF CAFFEINE
Caffeine is a comprehensively studied ingredient in the food supply, with centuries of safe use. Regulatory agencies throughout the world including Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), Food and Drug Administration in the US (FDA) and the UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA), consider the appropriate use of caffeine in food to be safe and acceptable.

Nutrition experts agree that it is important to consume foods and beverages from many different sources and in moderation. Of course, this is also true of foods and beverages that contain caffeine such as coffee, tea, energy drinks, cola and chocolate, which can be part of a balanced and varied diet and a healthy lifestyle.

How much caffeine a person can consume depends in large part on the individual’s sensitivity to caffeine.

That’s why Australian beverage manufacturers do not recommend beverages with added caffeine to persons who are sensitive to this ingredient.

We also suggest that children or pregnant/nursing women limit the amount of caffeine containing products and always speak to their doctor about caffeine intake. Individuals should also consider all potential sources of dietary caffeine including foods, dietary supplements and/or medications that may contribute to overall daily caffeine intake.

HOW MUCH CAFFEINE IS IN FOOD AND BEVERAGE PRODUCTS?

The average amounts of caffeine per serving, of common foods that you may find in your supermarket, are found below.

Energydrinkstablefinal

WHERE DOES THE CAFFEINE IN AUSTRALIAN BEVERAGES COME FROM?

The majority of beverages contain caffeine from high grade synthetically produced caffeine, which provides consistent quality and safety standards. Some beverages also use natural sources of caffeine such as guarana extract. In accordance with Australian Food Standards, all members of the Australian Beverages Council disclose on their labels if a beverage product contains caffeine.

HOW IS CAFFEINE REGULATED IN AUSTRALIA?

Compared to other countries, Australia has comprehensive regulatory standards when it comes to caffeine in colas and energy drinks and controls how much caffeine can be added to these drinks.

In addition to limiting their caffeine content, foods containing added caffeine must also have a statement on the label that the product contains caffeine. Foods containing guarana (a South American plant with high levels of natural caffeine) must also be labeled as containing caffeine.

In cola-type drinks, the total caffeine content must not exceed 145 mg per litre in the drink as consumed.

Energy drinks are regulated under Standard 2.6.4 of the Code. It sets maximum permitted levels of caffeine and other substances in these products. The maximum amount of caffeine they can contain is 320 mg per litre (from all sources, including Guarana). For a standard 250mL energy drink, this is 80mg which is about the same as a 250mL cup of coffee. This Standard includes additional labelling requirements advising the products are not suitable for young children, pregnant or lactating women and individuals sensitive to caffeine.

IS CAFFEINE DEHYDRATING?

Recent scientific consensus concludes caffeinated beverages contribute to the body’s hydration needs similarly to non-caffeinated beverages.
The Australian Institute of Sport recognises that small to moderate doses of caffeine have minor effects on hydration in people who are habitual caffeine users.

The US based Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine in its February 2004 report on ‘Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride and Sulfate’ states, “… caffeinated beverages appear to contribute to the daily total water intake similar to that contributed by Non-Caffeinated beverages.”

In a study examining the effect of caffeinated and non-caffeinated beverages on hydration status, no significant differences were found in the effect of various combinations (Grandjean, A et. al. The Effect of Caffeinated, Non-Caffeinated, Caloric and Non-Caloric beverages on Hydration, J. Am. College of Nutrition, 2000. 19, 591-600).

In addition a recent review on hydration concluded that moderate ingestion of caffeine (<300mg) does not promote dehydration (Ganio MS, et. al. Evidence-Based Approach to Lingering Hydration Questions, Clin. Sports. Med. 2007, 26, 1-16.

IS THERE A LIMIT TO HOW MUCH CAFFEINE I SHOULD CONSUME?

How much caffeine a person can consume depends on the individual. That’s why Australian beverage manufacturers do not recommend beverages with added caffeine to persons who are sensitive to this ingredient.

We also suggest that children or pregnant/nursing women limit the amount of caffeine containing products and always speak to their doctor about caffeine intake. Individuals should also consider all potential sources of dietary caffeine including foods, dietary supplements and/or medications that may contribute to overall daily caffeine intake.

In Australia, there is currently no Acceptable Daily Intake (or equivalent) for caffeine. In 2000, Food Standards Australia New Zealand conducted a literature review and concluded that there was evidence of increased anxiety levels in children at doses of about 3 mg of caffeine per kilogram of bodyweight per day. The anxiety level for children aged 5-12 equates to a caffeine dose of 95 mg per day (approximately two cans of cola) and about 210 mg per day (approximately three cups of instant coffee) for adults.

In Canada, scientists also conducted an extensive review of the scientific literature on caffeine. Based on this review, they concluded that the general population of healthy adults is not at risk for potential adverse effects from caffeine if they limit their consumption to 400 mg per day.

 

Australian Beverages Council Submission: Caffeine in Foods

Following the Sept 3, 2013, release of the Food Regulation Policy Options Paper : The Regulation of Caffeine in Foods, public submissions were sought (prior Oct 18)  by the Food Regulation Standing Committee (FRSC)  Caffeine Working Group on the proposed options . The Options Paper along with community feedback will be provided to the Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation to assist it in formulating policy guidelines in relation to the regulation of caffeine in the Australian and New Zealand food supplies.

The Australian Beverage Council’s submission is detailed here.

Australian Beverages Council Submission – Caffeine in Foods

 

WANT MORE INFORMATION?

For more information on caffeine:

Food Standards Australia New Zealand
Australian Institute of Sport

Information current as at August 2013