Products containing caffeine are used and enjoyed by many people throughout the world. In Canada, caffeine is most commonly consumed as a natural part of coffee, tea, chocolate and certain flavours. Caffeine itself may also be added to carbonated soft drinks. When added directly to food, caffeine is regulated as a food additive under the Food and Drug Regulations. All food additives require a thorough safety assessment by Health Canada prior to being authorized for use in foods. Caffeine can be found in a number of energy drinks. In the past, these products were classified as Natural Health Products (NHP) and, as a result, were not required to have a nutrition facts table. It was decided in fall 2011 that energy drinks sold in Canada will now be classified in legal terms as a food, as they are in other countries like the United States and Europe. This means that energy drinks will be labelled and regulated as foods which will then be enforced through the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) rather than Health Canada's Inspectorate. Please visit the webpage entitled Foods marketed as Natural Health Products for more information.
Caffeine exhibits a number of biological effects resulting from its diuretic and stimulant properties. Health Canada's researchersFootnote 1 have shown that some sensitive individuals experience side effects such as insomnia, headaches, irritability and nervousness when consuming caffeine. As with any substance, there can be numerous other contributing factors to symptoms such as these, but Health Canada recommends to consumers that limiting caffeine consumption is a wise precaution.
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Health Canada's scientists continue to review new research findings to ensure that recommended daily caffeine intake levels are based on the results of the best scientific evidence available. In addition, Health Canada takes an active role in providing information about the potential health effects of caffeine and on typical caffeine levels in foods to help Canadians make healthy food and beverage choices.
A reviewFootnote 2 undertaken by Health Canada scientists has considered the numerous studies dealing with caffeine and its potential health effects. It has re-confirmed that for the average adult, moderate daily caffeine intake at dose levels of 400 mg/day is not associated with any adverse effects. Data has shown, however, that women of childbearing age and children may be at greater risk from caffeine. Consequently, as a precautionary measure, Health Canada has developed separate guidelines and recommendations for women who are pregnant and for children.
Health Canada has provided preliminary guidance to the food and beverage industry on the labelling of caffeine in pre-packaged foods.
Follow Health Canada's recommendations and avoid exceeding the suggested maximum daily caffeine intakes to maintain optimum health. By referring to the levels of caffeine present in various foods and other products (including energy drinks), as well as paying attention to the levels of caffeine listed on food packaging labels, consumers are able to make healthy eating choices to limit caffeine intake at different life-stages.
Please refer to Caffeine in Food for references to Health Canada's recommended maximum limits for daily caffeine intake, and for information on sources of caffeine, as well as the levels of caffeine present in various foods and beverages.
Health and Welfare Canada, 1990. Nutrition Recommendations.
Effects of Caffeine on Human Health, P. Nawrot, S. Jordan, J. Eastwood, J. Rotstein, A. Hugenholtz and M. Feeley, Food Additives and Contaminants, 2003, Vol. 20, No. 1, pg. 1-30.