Schumer to FDA: Investigate Caffeinated Peanut Butter

Schumer referenced the use of a product (STEEM Peanut Butter) that he said may pose a significant health risk to children and adults.

Josh Long, Associate editorial director, Natural Products Insider

November 9, 2015

2 Min Read
Schumer to FDA: Investigate Caffeinated Peanut Butter

Citing health concerns, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-New York) has urged FDA to investigate the use of caffeinated peanut butter.

Schumer referenced the use of a product (STEEM Peanut Butter) that he said may pose a significant health risk to children and adults. One serving, or two tablespoons of the product, contains five times more caffeine per serving than a Coke can, according to a Nov. 8 press release issued by Schumer’s office.  

“Caffeine’s addition to everyday foods such as peanut butter is a growing trend that could potentially pose health risks to Americans, especially children," Schumer said in a letter to Acting FDA Commissioner Stephen Ostroff. “It is disturbing to think that a child could unknowingly consume a whole cup of coffee’s worth of caffeine—or more—with just one serving of caffeinated peanut butter."

Schumer’s letter reflects mounting concerns that gum, energy drinks and other caffeine-containing foods and beverages pose health risks to consumers, especially children and adolescents.

STEEM Peanut Butter Inc. welcomed a review of its product.

“We have complied with any and every obligation we were required to before putting our product out on shelves, and we ourselves strongly promote the use of caffeine in moderation," the company said in an emailed statement. “In fact, we have many customers that have contacted us about using STEEM as a way to reduce the amount of coffee or energy drinks that they consume, as our all-natural ingredients are seen as preferable to the sugar and artificial ingredients that energy products often contain."

FDA expressed concerns over the peanut butter product that Schumer highlighted. 

"The company has indicated in recent media reports its desire to behave responsibly, but has not submitted to the FDA any information about the safety of its use of caffeine in its peanut butter product," Marianna Naum, an FDA spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement.

"The FDA remains concerned about over-caffeination of the food supply and the possibility for harmful effects when multiple caffeinated products are eaten simultaneously, especially in products that are attractive to children," Naum said.  "The FDA will continue monitoring the marketing of these novel food products in order to ensure public health and the integrity of the regulatory system designed to protect the food supply."

According to STEEM's website, the product contains 150 mg of peanut butter per serving. Citing “serious health" risks to domestic animals, the website advises consumers to refrain from giving the product to their pets.

“We are only marketed towards adults, and our label reflects suggested serving size, caffeine content and our recommendations for safe use," the company added in its statement. “If there are other obligations that we have to make STEEM more safe, we will gladly comply. The safety and satisfaction of our customers is, and will remain, our top priority."

About the Author(s)

Josh Long

Associate editorial director, Natural Products Insider, Informa Markets Health and Nutrition

Josh Long directs the online news, feature and op-ed coverage at Natural Products Insider, which targets the health and wellness industry. He has been reporting on developments in the dietary supplement industry for over a decade, with a focus on regulatory issues, including at the Food and Drug Administration.

He has moderated and/or presented at industry trade shows, including SupplySide East, SupplySide West, Natural Products Expo West, NBJ Summit and the annual Dietary Supplement Regulatory Summit.

Connect with Josh on LinkedIn and ping him with story ideas at [email protected]

Education and previous experience

Josh majored in journalism and graduated from Arizona State University the same year "Jake the Snake" Plummer led the Sun Devils to the Rose Bowl against the Ohio State Buckeyes. He also holds a J.D. from the University of Wyoming College of Law, was admitted in 2008 to practice law in the state of Colorado and spent a year clerking for a state district court judge.

Over more than a quarter century, he’s written on various topics for newspapers and business-to-business publications – from the Yavapai in Arizona and a controversial plan for a nuclear-waste incinerator in Idaho to nuanced issues, including FDA enforcement of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA).

Since the late 1990s, his articles have been published in a variety of media, including but not limited to, the Cape Cod Times (in Massachusetts), Sedona Red Rock News (in Arizona), Denver Post (in Colorado), Casper Star-Tribune (in Wyoming), now-defunct Jackson Hole Guide (in Wyoming), Colorado Lawyer (published by the Colorado Bar Association) and Nutrition Business Journal.

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