Canada Okays Caffeine in Non-cola Beverages

March 23/Toronto/The Toronto Star -- Non-cola soft drinks could soon be spiked with an eye-opening ingredient -- the caffeine that is already added to colas. Health Canada announced it is authorizing the use of caffeine as a food additive in all carbonated soft drinks, not just cola-type beverages.

Beverage companies will be allowed to add synthetic caffeine to non-cola soft drinks in concentrations no higher than 150 parts per million. The maximum amount of caffeine allowed in colas is 200 parts per million. Similar levels of caffeine are allowed in non-cola soft drinks outside Canada, including the U.S. and Europe.

Health Canada said an extensive scientific review determined that 150 parts per million pose no health risk as long as consumers do not exceed the recommended maximum daily intake of caffeine.

While small amounts of caffeine are not usually a concern, overconsumption can cause insomnia, headaches, irritability, dehydration and nervousness, said Health Canada, which advises healthy adults to limit total daily caffeine intake to 400mg -- the equivalent of three 250mL cups of coffee.

The advice differs for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Pregnant women who consume too much caffeine have a higher risk of miscarriage and low-birthweight infants. Pregnant or breastfeeding women and those planning to get pregnant should ingest no more than 300mg of caffeine per day.

Recommended daily maximums for children are based on average body weight: ages 4-6, 45mg; ages 7-9, 62.5mg; ages 10-12, 85mg. These amounts are equivalent to about one to two 355mL cans of cola per day.

Insufficient data have prevented Health Canada from developing a definitive maximum for adolescents, but it suggests that daily caffeine intake should not exceed 2.5mg/kg body weight.

The federal department is asking manufacturers to voluntarily list total caffeine content on all products and to identify the ingredient on the front of packages of newly caffeinated beverages.

"Health Canada is currently urging industry to proactively indicate this information on product labels to provide Canadians with the tools they need to make informed decisions and to manage their caffeine consumption," spokesman Stephane Shank said. "Should we determine that stronger action is necessary to help Canadians make informed decisions, the department will look at other options, such as regulatory changes."  

From the March 29, 2010, Prepared Foods E-dition