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Caffeine coming to Cracker Jacks, critics howl

7:59 AM, Nov 18, 2012   |    comments
(Photo: Leslie Smith, USA TODAY)
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The new line of snacks, called Cracker Jack'd, will contain coffee, be labeled as containing coffee and caffeine and marketed only to adults, Frito-Lay said in a statement.

It will contain snack mixes, popcorn clusters and "Power Bites" wafers. Two of the Power Bites products will have flavors that will contain coffee.

Frito-Lay said it expects Power Bites will contain approximately 70 milligrams of caffeine from coffee in each 2-ounce package.

CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson asked the Food and Drug Administration to look into Cracker Jack'd because he believed it violated the agency rules. But when he learned the snacks contain coffee - not pure caffeine - he was preparing to send a new letter Friday.

According to a draft he gave USA TODAY, Jacobson warns that there's "a new craze in which food manufacturers add caffeine (as a pure chemical or as a component of coffee) to a wide range of products."

He says some "appear to violate" FDA's determination that caffeine is "generally recognized as safe only in cola-type beverages at concentrations of 0.02% or less (about 48 milligrams per 8 fluid ounces)."

Along with Cracker Jack'd, Jacobson cited:

• Kraft Foods' caffeinated versions of its MiO "water enhancer."

• Kraft's Crystal Light Energy, which contains 60 mg of added caffeine.

• Jelly Belly's "Extreme Sport Beans," which have 50 mg in each 1-ounce packet.

• Arma Energy Snx's line of snack foods such as granola and potato chips that contain caffeine.

• ThinkGeek.com's Energy products, including Gummi Bears, brownies, mints and maple syrup, that contain caffeine.

FDA spokeswoman Carla Daniels says caffeine must be declared as an ingredient if it's added to foods. For conventional foods, the addition of caffeine up to 200 parts per million in colas is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) under FDA's regulations, she says. Although this regulation specifies the level of caffeine considered safe in colas, Daniels says it doesn't preclude the use of caffeine in other foods or automatically consider it safe.

The news comes as highly caffeinated energy drinks and shots have come under increasing fire after reports this week that 5-Hour Energy shots have been linked to 13 deaths in FDA "adverse event" reports. Last month, Monster Energy drinks, which don't list the caffeine content on the label, were linked to five deaths and one heart attack in reports to the FDA.

(Copyright © 2012 USA TODAY)

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