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:
145 mg/50 mL cup
Formulated caffeinated beverages or ' Energy' Drinks
80 mg/250 mL can
Instant coffee (1 teaspoon/cup)
80 mg/250 mL cup
50 mg/250 mL cup
48.75 mg/375 mL can
10 mg/50g bar
Source: FSANZ unpublished analytical data
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 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.
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.
‘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 Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt and the Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck have asked FSANZ to look into the safety of caffeine powders and high caffeine content food products.
The Ministers have also asked FSANZ to consider the need for appropriate warning labels and consumer safety information for these products.
A report, including recommendations for strengthening regulations and consumer warnings, will be delivered to the Ministers by 31 August 2019.
FSANZ will work closely with the Therapeutic Goods Administration and State and Territory regulatory authorities on this matter.
Application A394 - Formulated Caffeinated Beverages (Energy Drinks)