FDA Warning Regarding Powdered Pure Caffeine

by Diane, M.P.H, M.S.

While caffeine occurs naturally in coffee and tea, it is being added increasingly to energy drinks and candy. The only time the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the addition of caffeine to a product was for soda in the 1950s. It never anticipated so many caffeinated products would eventually become available, with caffeine now being added to a variety of products, including sunflower seeds, snack chips, and marshmallows.

“Caffeinated products, starting with the energy drinks in the last five to seven years, are now getting into all kinds of products,” said Jim White, a registered dietician and spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “I don’t think people are keeping track of the amount” they’re consuming.

The FDA says it’s generally safe to consume up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day, the equivalent of 4-5 cups of coffee. However, many people are naturally sensitive to the effects of caffeine and should avoid or minimize it.

The FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition issued a consumer warning in July, 2014, regarding powdered pure caffeine marketed directly to consumers and recommends avoiding these products. The FDA is especially concerned about powdered pure caffeine sold in bulk bags over the internet.

Dangers of caffeine powder:

  • These products are essentially 100 % caffeine. Even small amounts can lead to a rapid heartbeat, seizures and death.
  • A teaspoon of pure caffeine powder, which can be purchased online, is roughly equivalent to the amount of caffeine in 25 cups of coffee.
  • The Food and Drug Administration is urging consumers to avoid using pure caffeine powder, a potent substance linked to the deaths of two young men.
  • Pure caffeine is a powerful stimulant and very small amounts may cause accidental overdose. Parents should note that these products may be attractive to young people.
  • Symptoms of caffeine overdose can include rapid or dangerously erratic heartbeat, seizures and death. Vomiting, diarrhea, stupor and disorientation are also symptoms of caffeine toxicity. These symptoms are likely to be much more severe than those resulting from drinking too much coffee, tea or other caffeinated beverages.
  • Calling it “pharmaceutical-grade caffeine,” the Center for Science in the Public Interest has said powdered caffeine is often marketed as an athletic performance enhancer or a weight-loss aid and can be bought for as little as $10 for 8 ounces.

Deaths associated with caffeine powder:

  • Logan Stiner, an 18-year-old high-school senior from Ohio, died in May after taking caffeine powder that his parents later found in a small bag.
  • James Wade Sweatt, a 24-year-old from Georgia, purchased caffeine powder from a supplement company named Hard Rhino on Amazon.com. and died in June after falling into a coma following his use of pure caffeine. He thought the product would help him avoid the sugar in energy drinks and soda.

Who should know about this?

  • All consumers seeking caffeinated products should be aware of the potentially high potency of these powdered pure caffeine products.
  • Parents should be aware that teenagers and young adults may be drawn to these products for their perceived benefits.

What should you do?

  • Avoid powdered pure caffeine.
  • Note that it is nearly impossible to accurately measure powdered pure caffeine with common kitchen measuring tools and you can easily consume a lethal amount.
  • If you believe that you are having an adverse event related to caffeine, stop using it and seek immediate medical care or advice.
  • The FDA wants to know about adverse events associated with powdered pure caffeine and other highly caffeinated products. You or your health care provider can help by reporting these adverse events to FDA in the following ways:
    • By phone at 240-402-2405
    • By email at CAERS@cfsan.fda.gov

Why this advice is important:

  • Pure caffeine products are potentially dangerous, and serious adverse events can result, including death. People with pre-existing heart conditions should not use them.
  • Even small amounts can lead to a rapid heartbeat, seizures and death, the FDA said Tuesday. A teaspoon of caffeine powder, which can be purchased online, is equivalent to 25 cups of coffee.
  • The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a health advocacy group, has petitioned the FDA to ban retail sales of pure caffeine as a dietary supplement.
  • The FDA is considering regulatory action to address concerns over pure caffeine powder. Senators Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) and Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.) have joined the parents of Mr. Stiner and Mr. Sweatt in asking the FDA to ban the substance.
  • Caffeine powder can still be purchased from a supplement company named Hard Rhino on Amazon.com. Hard Rhino and Amazon have not responded to requests for comment. 


  1. “FDA Consumer Advice on Powdered Pure Caffeine.” Food and Drug Administration. (Source: www.fda.gov/…/SafetyAlertsAdvisories/u…)
  2. “FDA issues warning about pure caffeine powder-WPTV.com (Source: www.wptv.com/…fda-issues-new-warning-about-pure-caffeine-powder-…) 12/24/14.
  3. Hampton, T. “FDA Alert on Pure Caffeine Powder.” Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). (Source: jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1899186) 08/27/14.
  4. Tracy, Tennille. “FDA Warns Against Using Caffeine Powder: Potent Substance Linked to Deaths of Two Young Men.” 12/16/14.
  5. “Tragic Deaths Highlight the Dangers of Powered Pure Caffeine.” Food and Drug Administration. (Source: blogs.fda.gov/fdavoice/…/rragic-deaths-hi…) 12/16/14.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: