Caffeine is a natural substance and mild stimulant found in coffee beans, tea leaves, kola nuts, cocoa beans and other plants. Caffeine also can be created to be identical to the natural substance. Both natural and manufactured forms of caffeine are safe ingredients that consumers have enjoyed in many beverages around the world. In North America, most adults aged 25 and over consume most of their caffeine from coffee, but other sources include tea, soft drinks and energy drinks.
Caffeine is an alkaloid compound that has been safely used as a flavor enhancer in many beverages for more than one hundred years. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) designated caffeine in cola drinks as “Generally Recognized As Safe” (GRAS) in 1959. The FDA considers caffeine safe for all consumers, including children. In 1987, following extensive review, the FDA “found no evidence to show that the use of caffeine in carbonated beverages would render these products injurious to health.”
Found naturally in more than 60 species of plants, caffeine is one of the most studied ingredients. In amounts often found in coffee and some energy drinks, caffeine can have a pleasant stimulating or alerting effect. More than 140 countries have specifically considered the safety of caffeine and allow its use in beverages at varying levels.
In accordance with FDA regulations, beverage companies list caffeine in the ingredients list on product labels when it is added to a product. There is no requirement to list the precise amount of caffeine present. However, many American Beverage Association member companies are voluntarily moving to list precise caffeine contents on product labels as part of an initiative to provide consumers with more information about the beverages that they are drinking. These companies also have provided caffeine content information through their corporate toll-free numbers and Web sites for many years. American Beverage Association member companies also provide caffeine-free beverages for those consumers who prefer not to consume caffeine.
Caffeine levels for coffee vary depending on several factors, including coffee bean type, geography and harvest, as well as consumer brewing method/time and cup size.
Energy drinks, a growing beverage category, also often contain caffeine typically in the amount of 60-100 milligrams per 8 fluid ounces.
Typical caffeine levels in popular products
The caffeine in beverages is either added during the formulation process, or occurs naturally as one of the ingredients, such as in ready-to-drink teas. For more than 100 years, the formulas for these drinks have carefully balanced various ingredients to achieve the flavor combination that consumers prefer. The bitter taste of caffeine adds to the complex overall flavor profile of soft drinks. Beverage companies offer both caffeinated and caffeine-free versions of many soft drinks.
Credit: American Beverage Association