Canada OKs caffeine for non-cola soft drinks

Columnist Andrew Hanon sucks back some grape soda on Friday. Non-cola soft-drink makers have been...

Columnist Andrew Hanon sucks back some grape soda on Friday. Non-cola soft-drink makers have been cleared by the feds to add caffeine to their products. (Tom Braid, QMI Agency)

ANDREW HANON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:03 AM ET

EDMONTON - First, the good news.

Canadians are consuming fewer carbonated soft drinks. It's one of the major reasons our overall daily caloric intake is going down. On average, kids drink more pop than adults, so moms and dads, take heart.

Now, the bad news.

Health Canada has lifted its ban on injecting synthetic caffeine into "non-cola" soft drinks, like grape or orange soda, so while pop consumption is declining, caffeine consumption could rise, especially among kids.

That's just what every parent wants to hear -- fewer sugar highs, more caffeine psychosis.

Caffeine is already the most popular drug in North America, more beloved than even alcohol and more socially acceptable than nicotine, with an estimated 80% to 90% of us consuming it in some form or another every day.

And as anyone who's ever tried to skip their morning coffee knows, resistance is futile.

Withdrawal from the fragrant brown demon is ugly, painful and as those close to a jonesing caffeine addict know all too well, potentially violent.

According to a statement issued by Health Canada, it bases its decision to loosen restrictions on soft drinks on "a thorough review of all available science."

The feds are restricting the amount of caffeine that can be added to non-cola soft drinks to 150 parts per million, which is 75% of the amount that's allowed in colas.

They say this will pose "no health risk" to consumers who stick to Health Canada's recommendations for maximum daily intake.

So how much is safe, according to Health Canada?

Adults shouldn't consume more than 400 mg per day, or about three 237-ml (eight- ounce) cups of regular coffee. Pregnant women should keep it to two cups.

Kids aged 10 to 12 should limit their caffeine intake to 85 mg, the equivalent of about a can and a half of regular cola per day.

Because teens can vary so much in size, the feds say they should limit their consumption to 2.5 mg per kilogram of body weight.

The federal government also warns that too much caffeine can have a severe effect on people, including muscle tremors, nausea, irritability, anxiety, mood swings, increased heart rate and blood pressure, raised cholesterol, decreased bone density and low fertility in men and women.

There are even potential links to cancer.

Ominously, Health Canada warns that kids are at "greater risk of behavioural effects" from caffeine.

While Canadian adults get about 60% of their caffeine from coffee, kids already get about 55% of theirs from pop.

Health Canada spokesman Stephane Shank said that while they're not making it mandatory, the feds are urging soft-drink makers to put the amount of caffeine in their products on the label.

"We recommend that children, with the help of their parents or guardians, monitor their own intake," he says. "Parents are responsible for their children, right?"

Oh. So now it's up to parents to make sure their kids don't consume too much caffeine.

Touche, Health Canada. Touche.

andrew.hanon@sunmedia.ca


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