FDA is working to eradicate public retail sales of highly concentrated powdered caffeine, issuing a new warning letter to an online seller of the potentially toxic form of the dietary supplement in March.
It’s an effort that began in earnest after the agency issued official guidance in 2018. It followed through with a series of warning letters to numerous sellers of caffeine in bulk, whom FDA said were endangering the public, as precise dosage amounts of pure caffeine can’t be achieved by eyeballing quantities using common household measuring tools.
FDA’s March 10 warning letter to online retailer Trippo International LLC, which is operated by Ghulam Azhar from a Newington, Connecticut, address, said as much.
“Your 16-ounce Super Caffeine (Anhydrous) product label states, ‘Serving Size: 200 milligrams; Total Servings Per Container 2267,’” FDA warned. “Many consumers do not have a scale that is sufficiently precise to accurately measure such a small amount. Furthermore, a simple mistake such as measuring a serving in grams, rather than milligrams, could result in a dangerous or even toxic dose.”
Caffeine is, of course, the world’s most consumed stimulant, but a single teaspoon of pure powdered caffeine, about 2.7 grams, is roughly equivalent to the amount in 28 cups of coffee.
Consuming as little as one teaspoon of caffeine has been associated with symptoms including nausea, vomiting, anxiety and heart palpitations, and consuming as little as one tablespoon (or about 8.1 grams) has been associated with symptoms including chest pain, hypokalemia, elevated blood glucose, tachycardia, agitation, respiratory alkalosis, irregular heartbeat and, in some cases, death, according to FDA.
FDA has said caffeine can be sold in a dietary supplement when formulated and marketed properly. For example, the 2018 guidance noted that supplements sold in premeasured packets or containers are less likely to present the same safety risks as pure or highly concentrated caffeine.
Trippo isn’t a typical retailer of dietary supplements. It bills itself as a place to buy “novelties for serious smokers” and offers a range of items like rolling papers, bongs, CBD products, vaping accessories, knives and crossbows, as well as a few fringe dietary supplements.
As of press time, it appeared as if all caffeine products had been removed from Trippo’s online store. An email to the business seeking comment about the FDA warning letter did not elicit a response and a personal message sent to Azhar wasn’t returned.