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Scientist Says Caffeine Should Be Regulated

REYKJAVIK—Caffeine-related toxicity, deaths and near-deaths have made headlines over the past few years, and now one European researcher is taking the debate over whether to regulate caffeine to a new level by contending the current "regulatory vacuum" in the United States "seems far from acceptable or prudent."

In his editorial published in the Journal of Caffeine Research, Jack E. James, Ph.D., editor-in-chief of the journal and professor at Reykjavik University and the National University of Ireland, explores the "lethality of caffeine" and the proliferation of "the caffeinated environment," emphasizing in particular the risk posed by caffeine being added to energy drinks, bottled water, alcoholic drinks, candy, chewing gum and yogurt, for example, and used in pain and cold/flu medications and powder and aerosol inhalers.

He draws attention to the "rising tide of concern expressed in the public media and scientific literature alike regarding the potential for caffeine-related harm."

James wrote that attempts at regulation have been sporadic and fragmented, and have consistently fallen far short of addressing the totality of issues surrounding caffeine-related harm. The absence of a discernible policy framework for addressing such concerns continues to be an obstacle to needed action. Consensus discussions involving regulatory authorities, research institutes, and clinical organizations are required to formulate a practicable and effective framework.

In broad terms, such a framework should address the form and content of labeling of caffeine products; the nature of restrictions on advertising; the possible introduction of taxation policies and other financial measures of the kind believed to have been effective in curtailing consumption of cigarettes and alcohol; and the nature and extent of direct restrictions on sales, especially age restrictions.

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