WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s (D-OH) persistent calls to ban the retail sale of powdered caffeine and require better product labels, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today issued warning letters to five powdered caffeine distributors, requiring them to revise their labels to clarify serving sizes, potency, and risks associated with the use of powdered caffeine.
Following a New York Times report that detailed the prevalent use of caffeine inhalers to deliver powdered caffeine, Brown led a letter along with five of his Senate colleagues in July urging the FDA to ban the sale and marketing of powdered caffeine for retail use. U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) cosigned the letter.
“Even a small amount of powdered caffeine can injure and even kill those who accidently ingest too much. But too many who use it don’t know its risks,” said Brown. “Today’s action by the FDA will help protect consumers from this dangerous product. By requiring distributors of powdered caffeine to revise their labels and provide accurate and complete information to consumers, we can help save lives. While these warning letters are is a step in the right direction toward protecting consumers, I’ll continue my push to ban this product for retail sale.”
Blumenthal said, “I continue to urge FDA to move forward with a ban on its retail sale to once and for all stop this product from killing consumers. Powdered caffeine is a threat to public health – putting users in extreme peril – and we cannot afford to lose any more lives as the result of deceptive labeling and marketing of the dangerous product. I am glad the FDA heeded our call and has begun the process of protecting consumers against the significant risk posed by powdered caffeine.”
“Pure powdered caffeine is dangerous. When sold in bulk, it is nearly impossible for consumers to tell the difference between a safe dose of pure powdered caffeine and a lethal one,” said Durbin. “I am glad to see the FDA heed our call to action by taking concrete steps to help prevent the potentially deadly consequences of this drug.”
"Pure powdered caffeine is inherently dangerous because while caffeine is so familiar to many people, in its pure form it can kill," said Gillibrand. "I welcome FDA’s action to issue warning letters to distributors of pure powdered caffeine and remain committed to banning its retail sale to protect the public health."
According to the FDA, a single teaspoon of pure caffeine is roughly equivalent to the amount in 28 cups of coffee. Pure caffeine overdoses have been responsible for more than 200 hospital admissions in Ohio, including five life-threatening cases in 2014. The latest pure caffeine product to be marketed in the U.S. is an inhaler-like product, which the FDA has not reviewed for safety.
Although the FDA has alerted consumers to the dangers of powdered caffeine on its website, these products remain on the shelves and available online without any sort of regulation, warnings, or protections.
Logan Stiner – who was a high school senior in Lorain County – died just three days before his graduation in 2014 after ingesting too much powdered caffeine. He had planned to attend the University of Toledo. Brown stood with his parents, Dennis and Kate Stiner, during a press conference in July outlining the risk pure caffeine poses. They were joined by Dr. Steve Allen, CEO of Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and Rick Spiller, Director of the Central Ohio Poison Control Center.
Brown has led the national fight to ban the sale and marketing of pure caffeine. In January 2015, Brown led a group of senators in urging the FDA to immediately ban the retail sale and marketing of pure caffeine in support of a Citizen Petition delivered to then-FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg. Brown first called on Commissioner Hamburg to act in October 2014.