AHPA, CRN issue new guidelines on caffeine labeling

AHPA  and CRN have issued new policies on caffeine labeling.

Two industry trade associations, the American Herbal Products Association and the Council for Responsible Nutrition, have altered their stance on caffeine labeling. AHPA has amended its trade requirement for caffeine labeling, extending that requirement from supplements now to foods that contain added caffeine. And CRN has issued new guidelines for its members on the labeling of supplements containing the stimulant.

The trade organizations’ moves come as more and more manufacturers are voluntarily taking this step in apparent response to growing pressure from legislators and trial lawyers on the issue.

AHPA’s new policy, which is part of its Code of Ethics & Business Conduct, was decided upon during the most recent board meeting during the week of the Expo West trade show in early March in Anaheim, CA and made public yesterday.  CRN’s move was announced today.

There has been a lot of attention focused on added caffeine in food products; in particular energy drinks have come under scrutiny from members of Congress and from trial lawyers.  Monster Energy Company is currently defending itself in a high-profile wrongful death lawsuit relating to the death of a 14-year-old Maryland girl. And Sen. Dick Durbin, as part of his offensive against the existing way in which dietary supplements and energy drinks are regulated in the United States, has requested that the Food and Drug Administration investigate the amount of caffeine and other stimulant ingredients in energy beverages and how those products are classified and marketed.

Getting out ahead on the issue

It was for these reasons that AHPA as a group felt the need to get out ahead on the issue, said president Michael McGuffin.

"Three issues drove the association's revision to its policy regarding caffeine-containing products: the current attention being given to energy drinks; the realization that these products are sold in two product classes—foods and dietary supplements; and the fact that consumers need clear information about caffeine, regardless of the product class,” McGuffin told NutraIngredients-USA.

"Those considerations led AHPA to discuss and eventually implement these revisions to its caffeine policy, which was first adopted in 2005. The changes are a reflection that the existing policy was not inclusive of food products containing added caffeine, was 'over-applying' the need to inform consumers on products containing less than 5 mg of caffeine per recommended serving, and included an unnecessary requirement regarding how this information was being relayed to consumers."

And Steve Mister, president and CEO of CRN, had this to say about his organization’s new policy: “These recommendations go beyond what is required by law, but our member companies, along with the conventional beverage industry, recognize that consumers would benefit by having information that lets them know how much caffeine is in the products they choose to take.”

Details of new policies

The new labeling guidelines are similar in intent but differ in some particulars.  Among the details of AHPA’s new food labeling guidelines are these:

Dietary supplements that contain more than 5 mg of caffeine per serving, whether as added caffeine or as a naturally-occurring constituent of one or more herbal ingredients, and foods that contain added caffeine in which the total caffeine is more than 5 mg per serving conform to all of the following:

  1. The labels of such products disclose the presence of caffeine.
  2. The labels of any such products that contain 25 mg or more of caffeine per recommended serving disclose the specific quantity or quantitative range of caffeine per recommended serving, stated in milligrams per serving and/or in equivalent approximate cups of coffee; except that this requirement does not apply to products in which the only caffeine-containing ingredients consist of crude raw botanicals or botanical ingredients in which the caffeine is not more concentrated than in the source crude botanical.
  3. The products are formulated and labeled in a manner to recommend a maximum of 200 mg of caffeine per serving not more often than every 3 to 4 hours.
  4. The following or similar information is included on the label of any such product that contains caffeine in sufficient quantity to warrant such labeling: a. Do not use if sensitive to caffeine.
b. Not recommended for use by children under 18 years of age. c. Not recommended for use by pregnant or nursing women.

The new policy  defines “caffeine” as “a xanthine alkaloid with the chemical formula C8H10N4O2. Its systematic name is 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine or 3,7-dihydro-1,3,7-trimethyl-1H-purine-2,6-dione."

It further defines “added caffeine” as, “(1) caffeine that is a unique ingredient in a product's formulation, irrespective of source (natural or synthetic) or form (pure caffeine; caffeine anhydrous; caffeine salts; caffeine compounds; etc.), or (2) the caffeine present in extracts of botanicals if the caffeine level is controlled or manipulated to a specific quantitative level or range that is higher than the naturally-occurring level.”

CRN’s new guidelines call on manufacturers to disclose on the product label the total amount of caffeine, from both natural sources like green tea extract, coffee bean extract, guarana or yerba mate, as well as added caffeine. In addition to the recommendation for label disclosure of total caffeine content, the guidelines recommend that products with a total caffeine content of more than 100 mg per serving include label advisories for children, those sensitive to caffeine, pregnant or nursing women, and those with a medical condition or taking medication. The guidelines also discourage companies from marketing or promoting the use of caffeine-containing dietary supplements in combination with alcohol, or to counter the acute or immediate effects of alcohol.

“The guidelines are not intended to be rigid or compulsory for the industry, but rather to give firms a model of how to communicate with their consumers about these products. Companies looking to do the right thing can adopt these flexible recommendations for developing their own product labels,” Mister said.

Rising acceptance of caffeine labeling

The trade groups’ new policies come as more and more companies and industry groups are either recommending caffeine labeling or have voluntarily taken the plunge. In February, Monster chose to start disclosing the amount of caffeine in its products on the label. The American Beverage Association recommends its members (including those that manufacture energy drinks) disclose the caffeine amount on their labels using the formula “contains xxx mg of caffeine per 8 oz.”

Disclosing caffeine on labels of all products that contain significant amounts of the ingredient could help put these levels in context, especially when they are measured against the main source of caffeine in the US diet — coffee.

“A coffee house coffee has twice the caffeine as a similarly sized energy drink and more than five times the caffeine as a similarly sized soft drink,” says a posting on the ABA website.

“While media has been misreporting the levels of caffeine in products like energy drinks, it’s important to keep this comparison in mind—especially given the widespread popularity of coffee house coffees.”

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