Statement of CSPI Regulatory Affairs Director Laura MacCleery

The Food and Drug Administration must ban pure, powdered caffeine and highly concentrated forms of liquid caffeine as an imminent public hazard. The deaths of two young men, Logan Stiner and Wade Sweatt, were preventable tragedies and show that when it comes to dietary supplements, the system is broken. It is astonishing that a substance that is fatal for adults in the amount of two tablespoons is sold cheaply over the Internet as loose powder in large bags without clear warnings.

In September 2015, FDA issued enforcement letters to five companies that sold pure, powdered caffeine. While those companies stopped marketing the product, the problem is bigger than those companies. After only a quick Google search, we were able to order a small bottle of liquid caffeine from South Korea that contains an astonishing 9,000 milligrams of caffeine—enough to kill nearly seven people—and yet the label says only to use it “sparingly.” We easily purchased large bags of pure powder sufficient to kill several dozen people, and a gallon jug of what looks like water but is actually a highly caffeinated liquid—a cup of which would be a fatal dose.

A ban on such products would allow enforcement action against any company selling it—not just the five that received a warning letter. It would mean that such products could be seized by Customs at the border. It would also send a far clearer signal to the public about the risks. Any action less than a ban would be confirmation that FDA has lost its way.