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FDA warns on powdered caffeine: You're selling deadly doses

Companies selling bulk powdered caffeine are distributing potentially deadly doses of the stuff, the FDA warns.
/ Source: NBC News

Companies selling bulk powdered caffeine are distributing potentially deadly doses of the stuff without clear guidance on how much is safe, the Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday.

It warned five distributors that they were selling killer doses of the stimulant. It’s already killed two teenagers, FDA said.

The products are sold for people to use to make up their own energy drinks, but it’s very easy to overdose, FDA said.

“The difference between a safe amount and a toxic dose of caffeine in these pure powdered products is very small. Furthermore, safe quantities of these products can be nearly impossible to measure accurately with common kitchen measuring tools,” the FDA said in a statement.

“One teaspoon of pure powdered caffeine is equivalent to the amount of caffeine in about 28 cups of regular coffee,” it added.

“While consumers of caffeinated products such as coffee, tea, and soda may be aware of caffeine’s less serious effects – such as nervousness and tremors – they may not be aware that these pure powdered caffeine products are much more potent and can cause serious health effects, including rapid or dangerously erratic heartbeat, seizures and death," the FDA added.

"Vomiting, diarrhea, stupor and disorientation are also symptoms of caffeine toxicity.”

The FDA issued a warning last year when an Ohio teenager died after using powdered caffeine.

Now it’s issued warning letters to five companies.

“It is unclear why your product label provides the information that one-quarter teaspoon of your product is 574 milligrams, since this amount is well in excess of the serving size that your label recommends,” the agency says in one of the warning letters, issued to Michael McCandless of North Carolina-based Smartpowders.

“Although your product’s serving size is listed as 200 milligrams, it is possible that a consumer would understand your label as a whole as suggesting a serving size of one-quarter teaspoon.”