Caffeine occurs naturally in foods, such as coffee, tea and cocoa and has a long history of use as a mild stimulant. Products are also available with added caffeine, including cola-type soft drinks and formulated caffeinated beverages (energy drinks).
Caffeine content of some food and drinks:
Is there a safe limit for caffeine?
There is 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 intakes of about 3 mg of caffeine per kilogram of bodyweight per day. This amount for children aged 9-13 corresponds to a caffeine intake of 120 mg per day (approximately two cans of cola) and about 240 mg per day (approximately three cups of instant coffee) for adults.
Read the Working Group report.
How is caffeine regulated?
The 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.
Ban on the retail sale of pure and highly concentrated caffeine food products
In December 2019 we approved a ban on the retail sale of foods in which total caffeine is present in a concentration of 5% or more (if the food is a solid or semi-solid food) or 1% or more (if the food is a liquid food).
Existing permissions in the Code for the addition of caffeine to particular foods (i.e. in cola type drinks as a food additive and to caffeinated energy drinks) remain in effect, with the maximum permitted thresholds prescribed in the Code for these specific foods still applicable.
FSANZ had 12 months to undertake a full assessment of the ban and decide whether to confirm, reject or amend the approved variation.
As part of this assessment FSANZ called for submissions to seek views on whether to reaffirm the variation or to prepare a proposal to amend or repeal the variation.
After considering all submissions received, the FSANZ Board approved a decision to prepare Proposal P1056 - Caffeine Review on 15 December 2020 to review the permissions for caffeine in sports foods and general foods and consider the risk it poses to sensitive sub-populations.
The ban on pure and highly concentrated caffeine food products remains in place until the completion of the new proposal.