Watch CBS News

Caffeinated Cracker Jacks concerns consumer group

Cracker Jacks are about get a caffeinated kick.

Frito-Lay is set to release a new version of the 105-year-old snack called Cracker Jack'D with some flavors that contain caffeine, and a consumer watchdog is crying foul.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest says the snacks, along with a few others it flags, are a violation of Food and Drug Administration law. The FDA only considers additive caffeine safe for cola-type beverages if it contains only 0.02 percent and has no such standards for snacks and other products, according to the consumer group.

"Unless the FDA begins enforcing its regulations, I fear that we'll see caffeine being added to ever-more improbable drinks and snacks, putting children, unsuspecting pregnant women, and others at risk," CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson said in a written statement. "How soon before we have caffeinated burgers, burritos, or breakfast cereals?"

THE CSPI sent the FDA a letter urging it to take action against Cracker Jack'D (which has cocoa java and vanilla mocha flavors that contain caffeine), Kraft Foods' MiO "water enhancers" (which contain 60 miligrams of caffeine per squirt) and Jelly Belly's "Extreme Sport Beans"(which contain 50 milligrams of caffeine per one-ounce packet).

"Those products may be just the beginning of a craze in which many companies, large and small, disregard the FDA's regulation and begin adding caffeine to all kinds of foods and beverages," Jacobson said in the letter addressed to the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. "That could lead to serious health problems for children who consume those products as well as lead to cynicism among the public and industry about the FDA's effectiveness in enforcing and protecting the public's health."

Potential health problems include anxiety, restlessness, irritability, excitability and insomnia, says CSPI. The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages caffeine consumption in children.

Carla Daniels, a spokesperson for the FDA told in an email that the agency received the letter and will respond directly to CSPI.

However whether adding caffeine to snacks is illegal as CSPI charges may still be up for debate.

"For conventional foods, the addition of caffeine up to 200 parts per million in cola-type beverages (e.g., Pepsi and Coke) is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) under FDA's regulations," Daniels said. "Although this regulation specifies the level of caffeine that is GRAS in cola-type beverages, it does not automatically preclude other uses of caffeine in conventional foods from being considered GRAS, nor does it automatically give GRAS status to other uses of caffeine in conventional foods."

Daniels notes caffeine is naturally found in coffee beans and cacao that's used to make chocolate. If caffeine is added to conventional foods, she wrote, it must be declared as an ingredient however the specific amount of caffeine is not required to be declared on labeling.

Frito-Lay spokesperson Chris Kuechenmeister told The Boston Globe in an email the product contains coffee, which naturally has caffeine, and the company expects a 2-ounce serving to contain about 70 milligrams of caffeine.

"Cracker Jack'D is a product line specifically developed for adult consumers and will not be marketed to children," wrote Kuechenmeister. "The package design and appearance are wholly different from Cracker Jack to ensure there is no confusion among consumers."

Calls for tighter regulation of caffeinated products have also come recently with regards to energy drinks.

The FDA told CBS News in a statement Thursday that it is investigating 92 reports of adverse effects from drinking 5-hour Energy shots, including 33 hospitalizations and 13 deaths, as first reported by The New York Times.

In late October, the FDA said it was investigating five deaths and one heart attack tied to Monster Energy drinks since 2004, including the death of a 14-year-old girl Anais Fournier who died after allegedly drinking two Monster beverages within 24 hours.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.