Pure Caffeine: Even a Teaspoon of Powder Can Be Fatal

Advocates are asking the FDA to ban concentrated caffeine products.

— -- One scoop. That’s all it takes to potentially end a life.

Every coffee drinker knows that too many cups can give you the jitters, but too much pure caffeine can be fatal within just minutes. One teaspoon of powdered pure caffeine is the equivalent of 25 cups of coffee.

“We didn’t know how much of it was circulating around, didn’t know what it was, never heard of it, and we thought we were pretty in the know,” his mother Kate Stiner told ABC News.

Concentrated caffeine can easily be purchased online as a powder, liquid or even an inhaler, and is often advertised as a health supplement, with little or no warning about its potency.

Lawmakers and advocates are calling on the FDA to ban concentrated caffeine products, saying there is no way they can be sold or consumed safely. They note it’s impossible to measure out the recommended dose of 1/16 teaspoon.

The parents of another victim, 24-year-old Wade Sweatt, said he died after going into a coma just minutes after trying the powder for the first time. On his phone, they found he had been Googling conversion charts trying to determine how much to take.

After Stiner and Sweatt died from caffeine overdoses in 2014, the FDA met with their families and began warning consumers against pure powdered caffeine.

The agency issued warning letters to five companies last year and all five have since stopped selling the bulk product, but other manufacturers still sell it online. A simple search shows dozens of options available both from foreign companies and domestic producers. Most are inexpensive and with no more warning than the words “use sparingly” on the label. The FDA issued a warning to a Minnesota-based company selling caffeine just last month.

Lawmakers say it is a “bitter disappointment” that the FDA has not moved more quickly on this issue and fear only more deaths will spur them to completely ban pure caffeine products.

Some states like Ohio and Illinois have banned pure caffeine products at a state level, but the senators said that anything below the federal level is practically impossible to enforce.