Underage Coffee Consumption Coming Soon?

When my family and I lived in Germany, and I was 2 years old, I would escape from my bed in the evening time when my parents were enjoying their German coffee, and I would ask for coffee of my own. I imagine that the wonderful aroma of freshly brewed coffee permeated our home, and I wanted whatever was at the source. My Mom would offer me some of hers, but I would reply, “Just Phil’s coffee.” They probably let me have my own, because they just couldn’t resist.

Of course, I don’t remember any of this really. I only know because it’s one of those stories that your parents tell your girlfriend in your presence in order to embarrass you. I heard it all the time, much to the annoyance of my older brothers who would roll their eyes, because they knew how much of a spoiled brat I was as a toddler.

Now, I have my own kids, and one in particular is a lot like I was. She’s the one that always wants whatever I’m drinking (whether coffee or hot tea), but she doesn’t just want a sip. She wants her own cup. I’m not as nice as my parents were. Every now and then, I’ll oblige and give her a small cup of her own. And I would never do that hours after bedtime.

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In the not-too-distant future, such innocent imbibing might be against the law, depending on whether the FDA decides to start regulating it heavily and place restrictions on it for kids. Who knows, maybe they’ll set age restrictions on it. In Sweden, you have to be 15 in order to buy energy drinks at some grocery stores. Maybe the FDA will do something similar.

Currently, the FDA considers a daily caffeine dose of 400mg (4 or 5 cups of coffee) as being the safe threshold for adults, but they don’t have a limit set for kids.

The FDA says they’re especially concerned for kids and adolescents because of all the energy drinks that are marketed so aggressively to young people. A government behavioral health agency reported earlier this year:

 “Consumption of energy drinks is a rising public health problem because medical and behavioral consequences can result from excessive caffeine intake. A growing body of scientific evidence documents harmful health effects of energy drinks, particularly for children, adolescents, and young adults.”

 Similarly, the American Academy of Pediatrics “discourages the consumption of caffeine and other stimulants by children and adolescents.”

And it’s not just in so-called energy drinks. Food manufacturers are putting caffeine in everything from gum to instant oatmeal to syrup and waffles.

Wrigley announced a couple days ago that it would halt sales of their new Alert Energy Caffeine Gum “out of respect” for the FDA, which is now investigating the health effects of added caffeine in foods. They’ve already been investigating energy drinks and energy shots because of reports of illness and death.

I’ve heard of those reports too, but in most of those cases, we’re not talking about a kid drinking one energy drink and then being rushed to the hospital or dying. We’re talking about them drinking these things one after another over the course of a couple days while they play World of Warcraft nonstop. Or maybe they had a habit of drinking 3 or 4 a day, and at some point, their bodies gave out. Everything is toxic given enough of a dose.

Caffeine very well could be a large culprit in these cases, but look at the sheer amount of sugar in them. These energy drinks are really nothing more than giant sodas. The “energy” gained is probably nothing more than a sugar high that is only maintained by drinking more.

What I don’t get about this is that the FDA says they care about kids, but they don’t care about all the aspartame, all the fluoride, all the high-fructose corn syrup. They’re even OK with 15-year-olds buying the morning-after pill. They’re fine with kids taking Ritalin (a “legal” form of speed), and with people taking anti-depressants which have suicidal and homicidal side effects. But they chose to go after a mild stimulant like caffeine? For the children?

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