Science agency affirms safety at 400 mg daily for adults

EFSA adopts caffeine opinion

By Annie Harrison-Dunn

- Last updated on GMT

EFSA signs off on caffeine safety opinion without major changes
EFSA signs off on caffeine safety opinion without major changes

Related tags Caffeine functional beverage beverage

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has adopted its opinion on the safe consumption of caffeine with little change to its controversial draft after a heated debate period.

The NDA (​Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies) panel discussed the opinion last week at an open plenary after intense debate the month before with stakeholders​ including national authorities, consumer groups and trade associations. The meeting followed a feedback period where stakeholders could formally submit comments. 

The final edit is due to be published by the end of May. A spokesperson for the authority told us no major changes had been made and the main conclusions remained:

  • Up to 400 mg of caffeine a day and 200 mg in a single session ﴾two hours﴿ does not pose a health risk for general population adults.
  • For pregnant women, consumption should not exceed 200 mg a day to ensure there are no risks for the unborn baby. 

The final conclusions for caffeine in combination with alcohol were also unchanged, stating there was no evidence of interaction between alcohol and caffeine.

The spokesperson said: “The Panel was only looking at safe limits of caffeine in combination with alcohol at a ‘normal’ drink driving limit and did not consider interaction of energy drinks with binge drinking.”

This had been a point of some contention in the previous stakeholder meeting. Germany's Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (Bfr) challenged whether EFSA's conclusion on this failed to account for real life situations​ of nightclub culture where high consumption of energy drinks mixed with alcohol was common among young people.

The final document would also stand firm on its use of both body weight and absolute values, something some said could cause difficulties for sports nutrition formulation​.

energy drink cans close branded

This body weight formula was also used to derive safe limits for children and adolescents, for which EFSA said there was limited data. The panel used acute caffeine consumption in adults based on body weight (3 mg/kg bodyweight per day) as a basis for single doses of caffeine and daily caffeine intakes of no concern for these subgroups.

The panel also maintained that the same single dose of caffeine was not a concern when consumed less than two hours before intense exercise “under normal environmental conditions”.

Industry has been waiting for years for this opinion. Energy drink manufacturers hoped it would give clarity in an age when the sector had received intense bad press. Others hoped it would shed light on caffeine health claims that have been approved by EFSA but remain stuck in the EU food law backwaters due to member state concerns over public health.

The draft opinion​, released in January, didn’t satisfy everyone though. The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) warned the daily upper safe limit which equated to about five energy drinks could send the wrong message to consumers​. BEUC and member states authorities questioned why more conservative national risk assessments had been set aside. 

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