(Last updated August 2011)
Caffeine occurs naturally in foods, such as coffee, tea and cocoa and has a long history of safe use as a mild stimulant. Products are also available with added caffeine, including cola-type soft drinks, formulated caffeinated beverages (energy drinks) and energy shots.
Caffeine content of some food and drinks:
60-120 mg/250 mL cup
Formulated caffeinated beverages or ' Energy' Drinks
80 mg/250 mL can
Instant coffee (1 teaspoon/cup)
60-80 mg/250 mL cup
10-50 mg/250 mL cup
48.75 mg/375 mL can
20 mg/100g bar
Is there a safe limit for caffeine?
There is currently no recognised health-based guidance value, such as an Acceptable Daily Intake, for caffeine. However, a FSANZ Expert Working Group analysed the available literature in 2000 and concluded that there was evidence of increased anxiety levels in children at doses of about 3 mg of caffeine per kilogram of bodyweight per day. The anxiety level for children aged 5-12 equates to a caffeine dose of 95 mg per day (approximately two cans of cola) and about 210 mg per day (approximately three cups of instant coffee) for adults.
How is caffeine regulated?
The Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code restricts how much caffeine can be added to cola-type soft drinks and energy drinks. Foods containing added caffeine must also have a statement on the label that the product contains caffeine. Foods containing guarana (a South American plant with high levels of natural caffeine) must also be labelled as containing caffeine. This is to help people avoid caffeine either for themselves or their children.
In cola-type drinks, the total caffeine content must not exceed 145 mg/kg in the drink as consumed. Energy drinks are regulated under Standard 2.6.4 of the Code. It sets maximum permitted levels of caffeine and other substances in these products (the maximum amount of caffeine they can contain is 320 mg per litre). This Standard includes additional labelling requirements advising the products are not suitable for young children, pregnant or lactating women and individuals sensitive to caffeine.
‘Energy shots’ marketed as dietary supplements or supplemented foods have been found to contain caffeine and other substances in small volumes at concentrations above the limits prescribed in the Code and therefore do not meet the requirements of Standard 2.6.4.
What is the Government doing about caffeine in drinks?
The Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation (the Forum), formerly the Australia New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council has agreed to a number of actions in response to issues raised about caffeinated energy drinks.
In May 2011, the then Ministerial Council agreed to a full review of the Policy Guideline on caffeine, taking into consideration global developments in caffeinated products and regulatory approaches being taken in comparable markets.
Following the review and any necessary amendments, the Forum will decide if there is also a need to refer this issue to FSANZ for further regulatory action. The Forum is awaiting advice from the Intergovernmental Committee on Drugs on how it plans to respond to the issue of mixing alcohol with caffeinated energy drinks.