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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bitter pill for energy drink

Food and Drug Administration seizes Red Bull cans worth crores of rupees for exceeding permissible caffeine limit; initiates legal proceedings

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Maharashtra has cracked down on energy drink major Red Bull for exceeding the caffeine limit prescribed by the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1956.
    In April, the FDA seized 12 batches (7.74 lakh tins of 250 ml each) of the drink, valued at over Rs 5.8 crore, from Panvel. Officials say all the cans had over 280 parts per million (ppm) of caffeine, while the prescribed limit is 200 ppm.
    Last week, the FDA initiated proceedings against the company over seven batches, and intends to book them against the remaining batches over the next few days.
    "We have initiated prosecution proceedings against Red Bull energy drink," confirmed Maharashtra FDA Commissioner Dhanraj Khamatkar.
    After the tests confirmed high caffeine content, the FDA conducted another raid on Red Bull distributors in the city early this month. It seized Rs 8.72 lakh worth of energy drink from Milestone Merchandise, the company's main distributor in Sewri and Rs 4.17 lakh from Laxmi Enterprises, another distributor based in Mulund.
    "We have sent the contents of the second raid to State Public Health Laboratory in Pune; once the violation is confirmed, we will take legal action against the concerned parties," said Suhas Chaudhuri, Joint Commissioner (Greater
Mumbai), Maharashtra FDA.
    According to medical experts, high caffeine intake is quite harmful. In the short term, regular consumption disturbs the heart rhythm; affects the endocrine and metabolic system disrupting growth; and upsets the neuro-psychiatric system, resulting in enraged behaviour and low-attention span.
    In the long run, high consumption of such energy drinks damages the bones and leads to osteoporosis and arthritis. Research has also cited that there are remote links between such energy drinks and cancer.
    "Such high caffeine drinks are really addictive and very harmful to the health," said Dr Shashank Joshi, a noted endocrinologist at Lilavati Hospital, while adding that even the 200 ppm levels mandated by the FDA on caffeine is a little on the excess side. "The FDA needs to bring the cap down to 150 ppm," he added.
    Red Bull however maintains that it fully meets the safety requirements of the relevant Indian food regulations, and so, has been sold in India since 2002.
    "One 250 ml can of Red Bull energy drink contains about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee – which is 80 mg or 320 ppm – and this is clearly stated on each can. The limit set forth by the PFA Act applies only to carbonated waters and not to energy drinks containing functional ingredients such as caffeine up to 320 mg/L, taurine, glucuronolactone and B group vitamins," said Vikaas Saxena, Director, Marketing, Red Bull India.

Nutritionist Naini Setalvad likens energy drinks with caffeine to the H
Bomb – an explosion of energy that
spells disaster for your pancreas and
other glands…
It acts as a diuretic, i.e. increases your urine output and dehydrates the body It takes 24 hours to pass through the kidney and urinary tract. If you drink it before bedtime, it affects sound sleep and diverts energy, which would otherwise be used for muscle and cell repair It increases blood pressure and causes acidity Caffeine contained even in one to two cups of coffee instantly changes the pattern of brain activity. It over-activates the adrenaline gland, causing stress and aggression It gets absorbed into the blood stream within 10-15 minutes and is highly addictive. Since you feel a slump in energy after the initial rush, you reach out for another dose to maintain the "high" In teenagers, excessive caffeine causes headaches, diminished concentration, anxiety and irritability It causes calcium loss, heralding osteoporosis faster and at a younger age, and also raises cholesterol levels Piles and constipation can be aggravated by caffeine, not to mention that it overloads the kidneys, sounding the death knell for diabetics

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