Nightly News   |  April 30, 2013

FDA to examine caffeine’s impact on kids

With food manufacturers adding caffeine to a wide range of products, including candy and potato chips, the Food and Drug Administration is investigating what this means for children and adolescents who don’t process caffeine in the same way as adults. NBC’s Tom Costello reports.

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>>> our health news story tonight is about caffeine, specifically the number of products it shows up in and the concern that causes especially for children. now with yet another new product that boasts a jolt of caffeine, the fda says it is time to take a closer look. our report tonight from nbc's tom costello.

>> reporter: for years, the concern has been the effect of those highly caffeinated energy drinks on kids and teenagers. now food manufacturers are adding caffeine to a whole range of products including candy, jelly beans , potato chips , even gum. wrigley's new alert energy gum advertises the right energy right now. 40 mill igrams per piece. the fda says all this caffeine adds up to a big concern.

>> what does this mean for children, adolescents and adults who might have vulnerabilities to excessive caffeine? we need to get to the bottom of this.

>> reporter: up until now energy drinks have been the biggest concern. the fda has been looking into nearly 100 reports of illnesses, hospitalizations, even deaths, but says it hasn't yet found a definite link to the drinks. still, some states are considering banning their sale to anyone under 18. and the american academy of pediatrics recommends very little for children. cardiologist allen taylor says the stimulant effect can have serious side effects .

>> the least severe could be anxiety, nervousness, high heart rates, and on the extreme level, have been seizures and death in some patients.

>> reporter: and dietitians point out caffeine can be an appetite suppressants which can deprive kids of the nutrients they need.

>> substituting those nutrients for caffeine and then not having the appetite is a real concern for our children.

>> reporter: many march a group of 18 public health experts urge the fda to regulate caffeine to protect add less eolescents and children. today wrigley's emphasized to nbc news that its alert gum is well labeled. it's developed for adults and will be marketed to consumers 25 and older, it says. and the grocery manufacturers association says it will work with the fda to ensure consumers have access to the safest possible products. one more major development from the fda . late today it announced it is approving the plan "b" morning-after pill without a prescription for anyone 15 and older who can produce an identification. earlier this month, a federal judge ruled there should be no age restrictions and gave the fda 30 days to act. brian?

>> tom costello with all things fda related from washington tonight. tom, thanks.