Food Additives

Risk assessment of caffeine exposure from multiple sources

Ordered:

Report no: 2021:05

Published: 29.04.2021

Key message:

We are exposed to caffeine from various products, such as coffee, chocolate and personal care products (PCPs). Overall, the exposure can lead to parts of the population having sleep disorders. For adults with extra high caffeine intake, it can represent a risk for cardiovascular effects.

In this risk assessment, VKM examined whether the total caffeine exposure from diet alone and diet in combination with PCPs constitutes a health risk to the Norwegian population.

Caffeine is found naturally in e.g. tea leaves, coffee and cocoa beans and thus also in products where these ingredients are used. In addition, caffeine is added to several foods, cosmetics and personal care products.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has established doses to avoid safety concerns for specific groups of the general population for single and habitual caffeine intake. Adverse effects of single dose caffeine exposure on the central nervous system were evaluated in children (including sleep, anxiety and behavioural changes) and adults (including sleep and anxiety). Adverse effects of habitual caffeine exposure were evaluated in children (behavioural changes), in pregnant women (adverse birthweight-related outcomes in the offspring), and adults (cardiovascular outcomes).

Caffeine concentration data and consumption data for food, cosmetics and personal care products were compiled. In addition to coffee and tea, other products containing caffeine include chocolate, energy drinks, body lotion, eye make-up, shower gel and face cream.

“In adults, coffee was the main source of caffeine. The contribution from cosmetics and personal care products accounted for less than five percent of the total caffeine exposure,” says Monica Hauger Carlsen, Scientific Leader of the risk assessment.

“VKM concludes that the representative caffeine intake (median) in adults may represent a risk for sleep disturbances. Caffeine exposure from cosmetics and personal care products alone is unlikely to pose a risk for general adverse health effects and sleep disturbances. High caffeine exposure (95th percentile) from diet alone and diet in combination with PCPs may represent a risk for sleep disturbances and general adverse health effects. The effect on sleep depends on when the caffeine intake takes place in relation to sleep patterns and bedtime,” explains Carlsen.

“In children, the main source of caffeine was dairy products with cocoa, and in adolescents it was tea. According to VKM, the estimated caffeine exposure is unlikely to cause a risk for general adverse health effects and sleep disturbances. However for children and adolescents having especially high intakes of caffeine-containing products, exposures may induce sleep disturbances and general adverse health effects,” says Carlsen.

The Panel on Food Additives, Flavourings, Processing Aids, Materials in Contact with Food, and Cosmetics of the Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food and Environment (VKM) has approved the risk assessment.

There are minor corrections in the publication. These corrections do not change the discussion or conclusion of the risk assessment.

The members of the project group:

Monica Hauger Carlsen – Chair of the project group and member of the Panel on Food Additives, Flavourings, Processing Aids, Materials in Contact with Food, and Cosmetics

Tove Gulbrandsen Devold - Member of the Panel on Food Additives, Flavourings, Processing Aids, Materials in Contact with Food, and Cosmetics

Berit Granum – Member of the Panel on Food Additives, Flavourings, Processing Aids, Materials in Contact with Food, and Cosmetics

Josef Daniel Rasinger - Member of the Panel on Food Additives, Flavourings, Processing Aids, Materials in Contact with Food, and Cosmetics

Jens Rohloff - Member of the Panel on Food Additives, Flavourings, Processing Aids, Materials in Contact with Food, and Cosmetics

Camilla Svendsen, member of the Panel on Food Additives, Flavourings, Processing Aids, Materials in Contact with Food, and Cosmetics

Inger Therese L. Lillegaard – VKM Secretariat

Gro Haarklou Mathisen – Project manager, VKM Secretariat

Contact

Gro Mathisen

Project manager, PhD

T: +47 21 62 28 06
Send e-mail

The Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food and Environment

T: 21 62 28 00
@: vkm@vkm.no


P.O. Box 222 Skøyen
0213 Oslo

Webmaster: Tanya S. Kristiansen
Senior Editor: Ingrid M. Høie