Food industry increases caffeine content
Our country is slowly changing its guidelines and regulations on food to promote a healthier lifestyle. However, would allowing food manufacturers add caffeine to food be a step in the wrong direction? An increasing amount of food manufacturers are adding caffeine to snack foods and even bottled water. Current FDA regulations do not require the amount of caffeine in foods to be reported on the label because it is not considered a nutrient. This raises the question: just how much caffeine are we actually consuming? Although a ban of caffeine is improbable, concern rises regarding the increased consumption of caffeine, especially with energy drinks are becoming more and more common.
So is caffeine really harmful? According to experts caffeine is a drug. It alters behavior by influencing brain chemistry. There are, however, differences in the response to caffeine from person to person. Most people who drink coffee or carbonated beverages on a regular basis are used to its affects. But what happens when people who are not used to the effects of caffeine unknowingly ingest it? For people accustomed to the substance, it can make them feel jittery, agitated, and nervous. It also poses a risk to people, especially children, who unknowingly consume a potentially addictive substance, opening the door to slippery slope of increased caffeine consumption.
The amount of caffeine in snack products varies but is generally reported to have the same caffeine content as a small cup of coffee. This may not be a necessarily harmful amount although the quantity is still significant. Would requiring manufacturers to label caffeine content decrease its consumption? It is uncertain though it would allow for informed decisions on caffeine intake. This is especially helpful for children whose brains are undergoing development and are particularly vulnerable to the addicting nature of caffeine. Jennifer Temple from the University of Buffalo researches how kids respond to caffeine and has demonstrated that even when given modest amounts of caffeine, the kids show a greater preference for the caffeinated foods. Since consumption tends to increase once its starts, labeling caffeine amounts on snacks and drinks educates people about their daily caffeine intake.