Five companies that sell pure powdered caffeine received warnings from the FDA to immediately correct violations or be subject to product seizure. The danger, according to the FDA, is that the amounts of the product being sold in individual packages is too much and that it is too difficult to properly measure with normal kitchen utensils.
Earlier this week, the FDA sent warning letters to five companies that produce pure powdered caffeine. The issue is that there are no significant warnings on or specialized dosing spoons in the product packaging and that the companies were selling lethal amounts of pure caffeine. Letters were sent to Bridge City Bulk, Hard Eight Nutrition, Kreativ Health, PureBulk and SmartPowders. The FDA required a response within 15 days.
Why the fuss over caffeine? We drink it in coffee, tea and numerous different energy drinks. Our caffeinated beverages either contain the stimulant naturally or, as in the case of energy drinks, have it added in precise amounts during processing. Pure caffeine, however, is not something to take lightly.
Pure caffeine is a powerful stimulant. Go to your kitchen and grab a teaspoon and a tablespoon; I’ll wait.
OK, look at the teaspoon. A level teaspoon of pure caffeine powder (not much, right?) equals about 28 cups of coffee. Now, look at the tablespoon. If you mixed a level tablespoon of pure caffeine powder into your morning OJ, you would die. The companies selling pure caffeine powder package it in a variety of container sizes. The FDA issued a set of caffeine-related warnings last year after two healthy young men died after caffeine overdoses.
- 400 “tall” coffees at Starbucks.
- 1,250 cans of Red Bull
- 3,000 cans of Coke
The FDA is most concerned as safe amounts of pure caffeine are incredibly small and difficult to measure. The typical kitchen tools, like teaspoons, aren’t precise enough to do the job correctly. Variations in how tightly the caffeine is packed can also lead to inaccurate and dangerous doses.
Per the FDA website, “The difference between a safe amount and a toxic dose of caffeine in these pure powdered products is very small.” A precision scale is necessary to safely dose. Overdoses lead to rapid or dangerously erratic pulse, seizures and death.
One of the first companies to respond to the warning letters, Bridge City Bulk’s pure powdered caffeine is sold in sizes ranging from 1kg (2.2lbs) to 25kg (55lbs). For perspective, the company said its 10kg (22lb) package equals 1,230 teaspoons. That is the equivalent of 50,000 servings. Given the difficulty to properly measure and the amount of product sold, the potential for serious damage becomes clear.
The warning letters stated that these products “are packaged to contain an amount that would be lethal to many consumers.” Companies were advised to “take prompt action to correct the violations.” Failure to do so, the agency said, could result in product seizure or the FDA not allowing more of the product to be produced.
As mentioned, Bridge City Bulk responded quickly. Jeffrey Stratton, founder, said BCB had “immediately stopped selling the material.” He added that BCB had received “no product complaints at any time, ever.”
At this time, we don’t know if the other companies will stop selling pure powdered caffeine. A check of BCB’s website while writing this post showed zero pure powdered caffeine. The other companies may decide to include precise measuring devices or change the volume of product in the packages.
The FDA will evaluate responses on a case-by-case basis saying, “We do not know how the market will respond to these warning letters and to the concerns that F.D.A. and others have expressed about the safety of pure powdered caffeine, so we cannot speak to whether or not products are coming off the market.”