Caffeine intake and effects studied

Thursday 3 June 2010, 7:15AM

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) is confirming its advice to parents and caregivers that energy drinks and energy shots containing caffeine are not for children and young teenagers, following completion of a risk profile on caffeine.

“The report has not found anything we didn’t already know: children and teenagers get caffeine from tea, kola drinks and coffee, and if they consume too much they could have effects like dizziness, rapid heartbeat, irritability, anxiety, tremors and insomnia,” public health principal advisor Donald Campbell says.

“These products are labelled with their caffeine content, and just as you wouldn’t hand a child a double long black, you shouldn’t give them energy shots,” Dr Campbell says.

A single shot espresso coffee has around 80 mg of caffeine and a cafe latte 99 mg. Energy shots can have twice this level or more. A cup of tea has about 55 mg. A 50g milk chocolate bar has about 10mg.

NZFSA’s risk profile indicates that the temporary adverse effects can occur in some people when they consume about 3 mg of caffeine per kilogramme of body weight a day, which most adults would exceed if they had two single shot lattes or four cups of tea. There is no evidence of long-term harm in the general healthy adult population from caffeine consumption up to 400 mg per day.

Ministry of Health healthy eating guidelines say that children should avoid energy drinks and limit intake of kola type soft drinks, and that teenagers have them only once in a while. Pregnant women should limit their caffeine intake and avoid energy drinks and energy shots. People who are sensitive to caffeine should also avoid energy drinks and energy shots.

Energy drinks sold under the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code must carry an advisory statement that the product contains caffeine and is not recommended for children, lactating women or individuals sensitive to caffeine. The level of caffeine must also be stated on the label. Energy shots sold under the New Zealand Food (Supplemented Food) Standard 2010 must carry the same information.

“NZFSA supports the New Zealand Juice and Beverage Association’s Code of Practice to minimise marketing of these products to children,” Dr Campbell says.

He adds that it is difficult to determine what the levels of consumption of energy drinks and energy shots are in New Zealand. “We had to make some conservative assumptions because many of these caffeine drinks are relatively new on the market and the market is constantly changing.”

NZFSA assistant director of international policy Trish Ranstead says that the risk profile has been shared with trans-Tasman food standards-setter Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).

The risk profile can be downloaded from the NZFSA website at: Risk Profiles