While coffee drinkers knowingly guzzle hundreds of milligrams of caffeine every day, many consumers don't realize just how much caffeine is in their food.
New York City Councilman Simcha Felder is taking action to pressure the Food and Drug Administration to list caffeine content on food labels, a move that consumer groups have been lobbying for the last 10 years, with no luck.
PepsiCo has taken action on its own, voluntarily listing the amount of caffeine in its soda right on the label. That's the exception rather than the norm, though.
Caffeine appears in a variety of foods, and consumers have no idea just how much is in their yogurt, ice cream and candy. Consumer Reports found Sunkist Orange soda had about the same caffeine as a cola drink, but Fanta and Minute Maid contained none.
Some coffee-flavored yogurts are loaded with caffeine, but others don't have any. Consumers often have no way of knowing.
"The amount of caffeine should be listed on any product that contains a significant amount," said Michael Jacobson, a spokesman for the Center for the Public Interest. "It gives people a choice."
Currently, the FDA requires food manufacturers to list caffeine as an ingredient, but manufacturers do not have to disclose how much.
Pregnant Women and Parents Should Be Vigilant
The lack of detailed information makes it difficult for caffeine-wary consumers to watch their intake.
Health experts suggest adults consume no more than 300 milligrams of caffeine per day, which is the same amount as in three old-fashioned cups of coffee. Pregnant women are advised to have little or no caffeine.
Stephen Siegel, a cardiologist at NYU Medical Center, says consumers should all be vigilant about caffeine intake.
"Limit the amount of caffeine from a general health point of view … that we try to limit everything pregnant women take," Siegel said.
The United States doesn't have an official recommendation on how much caffeine children should consume, but Canadian officials say 10- to 12-year-olds should consume no more than 85 milligrams of caffeine a day.
That sounds easy enough to accomplish, right? Maybe not.
According to Consumer Reports, one can of Mountain Dew is 55 milligrams. Eat a cup of Haagen Dazs coffee ice cream and get 48 more milligrams, and sprinkling a half-cup of chocolate M&Ms on top adds an additional 16 milligrams. It all adds up to about the same as a cup of coffee.
Doctors say kids are more susceptible to caffeine's impact on behavior.
"Behavior is going to be a significant issue with children who are getting excessive amounts of caffeine. It may be problematic," Siegel said.
It's one more thing for consumers to be vigilant about.