The Food and Drug Administration may be setting its sights on caffeine. The regulatory agency has announced a plan that could limit the sale of beverages containing caffeine — including coffee and energy drinks — to consumers who are 21-years-old and up:
A few European countries have moved toward regulation — in Sweden, for example, many grocery stores do not sell energy drinks to people under 15. The United States is not likely to lead the charge into federal regulation tomorrow or next year, but when Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine at the Food and Drug Administration, was asked last week, “Is it possible that FDA would set age restrictions for purchase?” he responded:
We have to be practical; enforcing age restrictions would be challenging. For me, the more fundamental questions are whether it is appropriate to use foods that may be inherently attractive and accessible to children as the vehicles to deliver the stimulant caffeine, and whether we should place limits on the amount of caffeine in certain products.
Taylor’s comment came in the context of the FDA’s announcement that, as the organization put it, “in response to a trend in which caffeine is being added to a growing number of products, the agency will investigate the safety of caffeine in food products, particularly its effects on children and adolescents.” It’s a kind of nonchalant way to say that the organization in charge of making sure everything we eat and drink is safe for us is, decades into the mass marketing and sale of heavily caffeinated products without regulation to all U.S. markets, going to look into their safety.
That groan you heard was from high school and college students who rely on caffeine-based products to cram before tests or to write last minute papers.
This is part of a growing push to regulate energy drinks, such as Rockstar and Monster (drinks that this author consumes, along with copious of coffee, on a regular basis), which would essentially treat them like alcoholic beverages. Those products, by the way, contain less caffeine that a cup of coffee. But the marketing of energy drinks is generally directed towards a younger audience.
The makers of these drinks have already managed to side-step some oversight. But regulators are concerned about the impact these drinks have on children, which is seemingly the endless excuse for many government regulations — THINK ABOUT THE CHILDREN!
While it’s understandable that there needs to be some basic measure of regulation to protect minors, this is bureaucracy and government overreach gone wild. Let parents be parents. What their kids consume should be left up to them, not some overpaid paternalistic bureaucrat in an office in Washington, DC.