Wrigley Pulls Gum: Does FDA Believe Caffeine Gum Is Unsafe?

By Philip Ross on May 10, 2013 2:43 PM EDT

wrigley pulls gum
Wrigley’s Alert Energy caffeinated chewing gum contains 40 milligrams of caffeine per piece – about one-third that of an average 8 ounce cup of coffee – and costs twice as much as the company’s other iterations, like 5. (Photo: Flickr/theimpulsivebuy)

Chewing gum is a confection many people can't do without, but if you were looking to get a bit of a jolt out of your bubblegum habit, you'll have to wait.

After the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, expressed concern over the safety of food products containing caffeine, Wrigley's decided to take its new Alert Energy Gum, a caffeinated version of its famous brand, out of its marketing and production scheme. 

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The gum, which contains about 40 milligrams of caffeine per piece -- about one-third that of an average 8 ounce cup of coffee -- promises "the right energy, right now."

But the FDA has expressed its concern over the amount of caffeine U.S. kids consume after a slew of caffeine-injected energy drinks and shots hit the market in recent years. The government agency has decided to launch an investigation into the effects of caffeinated food products on young teens and children. From AP:

Michael Taylor, FDA's deputy commissioner of foods, indicated that the proliferation of new foods with caffeine added - especially the gum, which he equates to "four cups of coffee in your pocket" - may even prompt the FDA to look closer at the way all food ingredients are regulated.

The agency is already investigating the safety of energy drinks and energy shots, prompted by consumer reports of illness and death.

International Business Times reports that after caffeinated alcoholic beverages like Four Loko became popular with young teens around 2010, the FDA decided to look into the use of caffeine in food products, especially those marketed towards youths.

"After discussions with the FDA, we have a greater appreciation for its concern about the proliferation of caffeine in the nation's food supply," Wrigley's North American president Casey Keller told the Chicago Tribune. "There is a need for changes in the regulatory framework to better guide the consumers and the industry about the appropriate level and use of caffeinated products."

According to the Chicago Tribune, Wrigley's Alert Energy Gum was aimed at consumers age 25 to 49 and was pricier than the company's average pack of gum ($2.99 for an 8-piece package, compared with $1 to $1.50 for a 15-piece pack of Wrigley's Extra, Orbit or 5).

IScience Times reported earlier that while there's little evidence to support any claim that a few cups of coffee a day has any adverse effects, some experts advise keeping daily caffeine intake under 500 to 600 milligrams, or 4 to 5 cups of coffee, a day.

To really overdose on caffeine would take ambition; a person weighing 140 pounds would have to ingest 10,795 mg of caffeine, or about 53 8 oz cups of coffee, to be in danger of dying.

Read more from iScience Times:

'Friends' Deadly Coffee Intake: How Much Caffeine Is Enough To Kill You?

'World's Strongest Coffee' Contains 200% More Caffeine Than Average Cup: Where To Buy 'Death Wish' Dark Roast

Does Gum Really Take 7 Years To Digest?

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