EFSA: "How can it have both an adverse and beneficial effect? It can."

Alert vs insomniac: EFSA says caffeine effect can be both good and bad

By Annie Harrison-Dunn contact

- Last updated on GMT

European Coffee Federation (ECF) says EFSA caffeine opinion contains contradictions
European Coffee Federation (ECF) says EFSA caffeine opinion contains contradictions
EFSA's draft opinion on caffeine does not contain contradictions since the health effects of caffeine can be both negative and positive depending on the context, the authority has said at a stakeholder meeting.

Discussing the draft opinion at a meeting in Brussels yesterday ahead of the March 15 consultation deadline, director of the European Coffee Federation (ECF) Tijmen de Vries said the document contained contradictions given EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) had explored alertness in its health claim opinion as a positive impact and as a negative impact in the risk assessment. de Vries presented this and its relation to perceived exertion as one of his key points in 5-minute presentations allowed for six stakeholders.

Anders Sjödin, chair of EFSA's working group on caffeine, said it was important to understand EFSA had "a different hat on"​ when it was looking at health claims, and this task did not involve assessing safety.

"How can it have both an adverse and beneficial effect? It can,"​ he said, noting context was key since alertness and concentration could be helpful in certain situations, but maybe negative for example late at night when trying to sleep.

EFSA approved the health claims​ 'caffeine helps to improve concentration' and 'caffeine helps to increase alertness'  in 2011, but those claims are yet to be written into EU law books due to member state concerns over what that would communicate to consumers about caffeine consumption.

These claims came with stipulated intakes of 75 mg caffeine per serving and a warning not to exceed 300 mg day. At the time EFSA said increased alertness might be and increased attention was a beneficial physiological effect. 

One part of EFSA's risk assessment was an evaluation of the effects of single and repeated doses of caffeine consumed within a day on the central nervous system of adults (sleep, anxiety, perceived exertion during exercise and subjective perception of alcohol intoxication) and children (sleep, anxiety and behavioural changes).

On this end point it concluded: "The Panel notes that 100 mg of caffeine (about 1.5 mg/kg body weight) may increase sleep latency and reduce sleep duration in some individuals, particularly when consumed close to bedtime."

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