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Energy drinks contain high caffeine: CSE study


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The Centre for Science and Environment’s Pollution Monitoring Lab recently carried out a test on leading ‘energy’ drink brands like Red Bull and Cloud 9 and to everyone’s shock found high levels of caffeine in 44 per cent of the samples. The amount of caffeine found in the samples tested by CSE violate the safe limit of 145 parts per million (ppm) of caffeine prescribed by the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act of 1954.

These drinks claim to have major health benefits but instead would harm the body of consumers, mainly the youngsters. The drinks also flaunt to help increase alertness of the mind and improve concentration, stamina and athletic performance, but in reality the high caffeine content can lead to severe health impacts. An excess of caffeine content in these drinks can lead to complications like hypokalemia (low potassium levels), hallucinations, increased intracranial pressure, cerebral edema, stroke, paralysis, rhabdomyolysis (muscle fibers in blood), altered consciousness, rigidity, seizures, arrhythmias, or could even be fatal.

After the caffeine test done on these energy drinks, the inference drawn is:

  • 38 per cent of the samples breached the limit mentioned on the label.
  • 25 per cent did not mention the caffeine content on the label.
  • 44 per cent breached the caffeine limit of 145 ppm.

According to CSE, these drinks are often confused with sports drink and are consumed in excess by athletes or people engaged in physical training, eventually causing health hazards. The energy drinks are taken to rehydrate the body but unknown to people, if these drinks are taken in access could leave body dehydrated leading to other complications.

The study also claimed that caffeine is a psycho-stimulant and it could be doing irreparable harm to the body, which could lead to seizures, strokes or even death.

Currently, the caffeine content in these drinks is unregulated. Ignoring public health concerns, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the apex food safety regulatory body in the country, is considering a norm of 320 ppm, while the government has set 145 ppm as the safe limit for carbonated beverages.

As per an amendment in Rule 37-A(2) of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954, ‘energy’ drinks were to follow the caffeine cap of 145 ppm, as is applicable to carbonated beverages.

However, this was contested in the Madras High Court by Red Bull; the court put a stay order on the amendment. 'Energy' drink manufacturers like Red Bull want 320 ppm of caffeine to be allowed as the limit in these drinks -- more than double the limit allowed on carbonated beverages.

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