The Cross-Border Biotech Blog

Biotechnology, Health and Business in Canada, the United States and Worldwide

Health Canada Calibrates Caffeine Consumption — Energy Drinks May Get New Labels

Two recent bulletins from Health Canada‘s caffeine directorate provide updates for the sleep-impaired. 

The first update reminds us of recommended limits: 400mg/day for healthy adults.  Health Canada describes this as “about three 8oz cups of coffee.” Pay attention though, because a “medium” at Tim’s is 10oz (14oz in the U.S.) and only the rarely ordered “short” at Starbucks fits the 8oz bill (Starbucks’ “tall” is 14oz). 

They also suggest limits for pregnant women (300mg) and for children (45-85mg based on age from 4(!)-12).  Yes, there is a recommended maximum caffeine intake for 4-year-olds, and it isn’t “zero”.  Actually, noting that symptoms of too much caffeine include “insomnia, headaches, irritability, dehydration and nervousness,” it’s possible more 4-year-olds than you might expect are drinking coffee, since most of them I meet have at least three of those symptoms.

Health Canada is also “developing a new labelling standard for all energy drinks sold in Canada,” presumably so as not to accidentally over-caffeinate so many 4-year-olds.

On the other hand, if you are a sleep-deprived and responsible adult, Health Canada would like to offer you some new options.  As they put it:  “Health Canada has authorized broader use of caffeine as a food additive from cola-type beverages to all carbonated soft drinks,” which is already the case in the U.S. and the EU. However, to help you keep your intake moderate, they are also “urging manufacturers to voluntarily identify on product labels the total caffeine contained in a product.” … because with that information in hand, everyone will gravitate to the drinks that disclose low amounts of caffeine. Right? Don’t blow your 400mg all at once, people.

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Image from Wikimedia Commons from user Can’t sleep, clown will eat me, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License.

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