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FDA May Add Caffeinated Gum To List Of Products To Be Evaluated

By Michelle Roberts, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) – Whether it’s to get us going in the morning or prop us up in the afternoon, caffeine is essential for many people.

Although it is usually in a drink like coffee, tea, or soda, a new option for getting a caffeine buzz is now available.

Wrigley, the largest gum manufacturer, is rolling out “Alert Energy.”Each piece of gum has about the same caffeine as a half cup of coffee.

We asked several people to try it for us. Lynne Esposti, a self-described caffeine addict, said it had a different taste. “I would definitely say a spark,” she added.

Another woman thought it tasted good and did not have any kind of chemical after taste.

Doctors are concerned that cumulatively people might be ingesting more caffeine than they realize because the drug is in so many energy drinks and sodas.

Dr. Rick Donahue of Personal Health MD in the Back Bay said, “When we consider caffeine is a drug and its benefits and problems, I would liken that almost to alcohol. If someone has one glass of wine a day, we know that has some health benefits, but if someone has five glasses a day then it has health detriments. But wine isn’t put into too many products.”

Dr. Donahue worries about yet another product infused with additional caffeine.

“Total caffeine consumption might go above the safe level and they don’t know it. The most vulnerable group are people that already have anxiety disorders. If someone is prone to some arrhythmia of the heart, electrical irregularity, it might accentuate that.”

The Food and Drug Administration is also concerned about the amount of caffeine in products. An agency official said caffeine was only approved as an additive to soda in the 1950s.

The agency is currently reviewing the safety of energy drinks and could add gum to their list of items to be evaluated.

The gum does contain warnings for people sensitive to caffeine and kids.

But caffeine junkies like Anne Marie Helt are still intrigued by the concept. Asked if she would buy this product, she said, “If in 10 minutes I feel energized then I probably would.”

A pack of “Alert Energy” will contain 8 pieces of gum, and cost about $3.

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