FDA And Caffeine: Selective Regulation By Unsubtle Threat

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Cross-posted at WLF’s Forbes.com contributor page

Hey you!  Yes you, food company (no, not you, coffee proprietor). We’re not happy that your product has caffeine in it. Um, you know, you really might want to reconsider that particular ingredient.

Fans of smaller government might almost be tempted to applaud the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recent approach to addressing caffeine in processed foods and drinks. Unsubtle threats and heavy-handed persuasion take up no space in the Federal Register, require little time or staff, and can produce big results for little cost.

Washington Legal Foundation certainly prefers smaller government. But as firm believers in due process, fair notice, consistency, and transparency from our Fourth Branch of government, we won’t be applauding FDA on this. The agency should stop its sabre-rattling, make a defensible case for bureaucratic action, and pursue a public process if need be.

As it often does on many issues, FDA is taking its cues on caffeine from professional activists and publicity-seeking politicians. U.S. Senators and state attorneys general have been busily besmirching (and subpoenaing) energy drink makers. The City Attorney of San Francisco (the city that banned the Happy Meal) has sued Monster Beverage for allegedly marketing its drink to children. Then last November, Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) dispatched a two-page letter to FDA on the “new craze” of adding caffeine to processed foods. Continue reading “FDA And Caffeine: Selective Regulation By Unsubtle Threat”