Mars Wrigley Gum Prompts FDA Review of Effect on Children

A Mars Inc. Wrigley chewing gum with added caffeine has sparked U.S. regulators to review how food with the added stimulant affects children.

The introduction today of Alert Energy gum is the latest in a line of foods that have added caffeine, Michael Taylor, the Food and Drug Admnistration’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, said in a statement on the agency’s website. The only time the FDA approved added caffeine in food was for cola in the 1950s he said.

“Today, the environment has changed,” Taylor said. “Children and adolescents may be exposed to caffeine beyond those foods in which caffeine is naturally found and beyond anything FDA envisioned when it made the determination regarding caffeine in cola.”

Alert Energy contains 40 milligrams of caffeine in each piece, which is equivalent to half a cup of coffee. The gum is marketed to adults 25 and older, Wrigley, a Chicago-based unit of closely held candy maker Mars, said in a statement. The company said it welcomes the opportunity to work with the FDA on the topic.

The FDA said last year it was investigating caffeinated energy drinks such as those made by Monster Beverage Corp. and Living Essentials LLC that have been linked to deaths and dangerous side effects. U.S. Senators Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, and Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, urged the agency in December to convene an expert panel this year to discuss the effects of consumers’ caffeine consumption. Durbin began pushing the FDA almost a year ago to more strictly regulate energy drinks.

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