It used to be that double the mint (and the pleasure and the fun) was as crazy as gum got. Now Wrigley's has introduced a new product called Alert Energy Caffeine Gum, which has sounded an alarm with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The FDA said the gum has prompted it to take a "fresh look" at the issue of added caffeine in food and beverage products because of its potential negative effects on children and adolescents.
The agency said "if necessary, [we] will take appropriate action," Reuters reports.
While the FDA didn't specifically point fingers at the unimaginatively named gum, Wrigley did just launch the caffeine-laden product this month. One little piece of Alert Energy Caffeine Gum contains 40 milligrams of caffeine, about as much as half a cup of coffee.
Wrigley, owned by Mars Inc., says it markets the gum as an "energy" product for adults aged 25 and older. A spokesperson told Reuters that the gum has a more bitter taste that is unappealing to children (with flavors like "fruit" and "mint" that kids hate), a higher price ($1.19 to $1.49 for a 15-stick pack), and packaging that "clearly separates" it from other gums (think men's deodorant packaging). She said that the company "welcome[s] the opportunity to work with" the FDA on "this important topic" and that "Millions of Americans consume caffeine responsibly and in moderation as part of their daily routines."
However, Michael Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, said he finds the gum "disturbing." "The only time that FDA explicitly approved the added use of caffeine in a food was for cola, and that was in the 1950s," Taylor said in a statement on its website Monday.
"Today, the environment has changed. Children and adolescents may be exposed to caffeine beyond those foods in which caffeine is naturally found and beyond anything the FDA envisioned when it made the determination regarding caffeine in cola," he added.
He equated Wrigely's new gum to "four cups of coffee in your pocket." The agency is already investigating the safety of energy drinks and energy shots, prompted by consumer reports of illness and death.
Wrigley is the first to market gum with caffeine, although Mondelez International Inc. sells a line of Trident Vitality gums, with ingredients such as ginseng, green tea and vitamin C, and Stride Spark gum in "Kinetic Mint" and "Kinetic Fruit" flavors with added vitamins B6 and B12.
What's next, Cracklets?
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