Frito-Lay is already facing opposition from a consumer group after announcing that it plans to add a caffeinated version of Cracker Jacks.
The new “Cracker Jack’d” line features variations on the traditional snack, and includes “Power Bites,” a caffeinated version of Cracker Jacks which will contain approximately 70 mg of caffeine from coffee in each two-ounce package.
But the Center for Science in the Public Interest wrote to PepsiCo, Frito-Lay’s parent company, expressing concern about the new product line. Caffeine is a mildly addictive stimulant drug “that is totally inappropriate to be included in foods consumed by children,” the CSPI wrote, with effects like “anxiety, restlessness, irritability, excitability and insomnia.”
The group followed up by complaining to the Food and Drug Administration and also alleged that Jelly Belly Candy Company’s “Extreme Sport Beans,” which include 50 mg of caffeine per one-ounce packet, and Kraft Foods’ MiO “water enhancer” were also marketed in violation of the agency’s rule on caffeine. The enhancer, with 60 mg of caffeine in each bottle, is an artificially sweetened and colored product packaged in a squirt bottle “that is likely attractive to young children,” the CSPI said.
The three products “may be just the beginning of a craze in which companies, large and small, disregard the FDA’s regulation and begin adding caffeine to all kinds of food and beverages,” the group wrote. “That could lead to serious health problems for children who consume those products, as well as lead to cynicism among the public and industry about the FDA’s effectiveness in enforcing its regulations and protecting the public health.”
A spokesperson for Frito-Lay told Advertising Age the product was specifically developed for adults and will not be marketed to children; the package design and appearance from regular Cracker Jacks will be “wholly different” to ensure no consumer confusion. Further, the Power Bites contain coffee as an ingredient, which is “clearly” indicated on both the front and back of the package, the spokesperson said. “It is worth pointing out that the regulation referenced in CSPI’s letter to FDA speaks to caffeine – not coffee,” the spokesperson added. “We stand by the safety of all products in the Cracker Jack’d line.”
To read the CSPI’s letter to the FDA, click here.
To read the letter to Kraft, click here.
To read the letter to PepsiCo and Frito-Lay, click here.
Why it matters: Caffeine as an added ingredient has made headlines previously, when combined with alcoholic beverages and in energy drinks. The CSPI expressed concern about the potential for the new products to encourage other companies to add caffeine to their food, launching a trend. “When major food manufacturers market such products, many smaller companies likely believe that gives them a green light to do so as well,” the CSPI wrote to Kraft, adding that it hopes the company “will set a good example of corporate responsibility.”