How much caffeine is contained in common beverages and supplements?

Updated: Aug 21, 2018
  • Author: David Yew, MD; Chief Editor: Michael A Miller, MD  more...
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Answer

In cola beverages, caffeine is permitted by the FDA for flavor use at a 0.02% (0.2 mg/mL) concentration, equivalent to 20 mg in a 100-mL beverage or 71 mg in a 12-ounce beverage (Code of Federal Regulations, title 21, sec. 182.1180). [6] Because caffeine is not considered a nutrient, the FDA does not require manufacturers to label the amount of caffeine present in food and beverages, although caffeine must be listed as an ingredient if the manufacturer adds it to their product. [7]

Although caffeine is found in food and over-the-counter products, more than 97% of caffeine consumed by adults and teenagers comes from beverages, including coffee, tea, cola-products, and energy drinks. [5] Unlike cola-beverages, energy drinks and shots are typically classified as dietary supplements; thus, individuals who consume these products are likely unaware of how much caffeine they are actually consuming. [7]  See Table 1, below.

Table 1. Reported Caffeine Content of Common  Beveragesref4} (Open Table in a new window)

Item

Amount

Caffeine Content, mg

Coca-Cola Classic

12 oz

35

Brewed black tea, generic

8 oz

45-74

Red Bull Regular

8.4 oz

80

Brewed coffee, generic

8 oz

57

Regular 5-Hour Energy

2 oz

138

Rockstar

16 oz

160

Monster Energy

16 oz

160

Espresso, generic

1 oz

170

NOS

16

280

Starbucks Tall Americano

16

330

The caffeine content of dietary supplements is virtually unregulated by the FDA. Prior to the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994, dietary supplements were subject to the same regulatory requirements as other foods; however, after DSHEA, the safety of dietary supplements became the sole responsibility of manufacturers. Consequentially, there are no limitations on the amount of caffeine in dietary supplements and manufacturers are not required to list the caffeine content of their products.

In 2018, the FDA issued a new guidance regulating the sale of "bulk quantities" (packages containing enough powder or liquid for thousands of recommended servings) of pure or highly concentrated caffeine in powder or liquid forms sold directly to consumers. However the FDA did not address preexisting beverages. [8]  

The rising popularity of caffeinated energy drinks over the past decade has raised new concerns about their impact on public health. As illustrated above, energy drinks contain substantially more caffeine than conventional cola beverages, with caffeine content ranging from 75-300 mg per serving. Many also contain caffeine-containing ingredients such as guarana, kola nut, or yerba mate. Consequentially, they may contain more caffeine than reported in Table 1 above. [9] These energy drinks are also sold in larger sizes (16-23.5 fl oz). It is not uncommon for individuals to consume multiple caffeinated beverages over the course of a day.


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