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Caffeine: claims and admitted quantities in food supplements in Italy

The Ministry of Health published a memorandum letter to define the maximum intake limit for caffeine as well the properties associated with this ingredient that can be claimed in food supplement labelling. The letter intends to harmonise, at least at national level, the provisions on caffeine, an ingredient that is more and more used in supplements, yet not clearly regulated.

In accordance with the EFSA opinion of May 2015, the Diet and Nutrition Section (SDN) of the Technical Committee on nutrition and animal health established that the maximum daily intake of caffeine with food supplement is 200 mg. This amount shall be included in the maximum amount admitted for an average consumer, i.e. 400 mg of caffeine daily, with no more than 200 mg as a single portion.

A reduced amount is provided for in pregnant women and during breastfeeding; for them, the maximum daily limit is 200 mg. The definition of these limits was required in order to have a common scientific basis at European level for supplements containing caffeine, considering the wide use of caffeine by consumers, also from other sources.

As for the warnings, the Ministry decided to integrate those already provided for by Regulation 1169/2011/UE; it will be therefore mandatory to report on the label – in the same field of the name of the product – that it contains caffeine and it is not recommended for use in children, and during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

The inclusion of a warning on breastfeeding is new, as already provided for caffeine-containing drinks, coming from the EFSA assessment on the analogy with pregnancy for the safe intake levels of this substance. For the claims, the proposed Regulation of the Commission for their authorisation was not approved, and therefore the situation at European level is still undefined, as for botanicals.

In the Memorandum Letter, the Ministry established to admit only two claims on attention and concentration, both justified only in the presence of a caffeine portion of at least 75 mg. The other claims on sports activities have not been accepted yet, as they would not allow the compliance with the limit of 200 mg: a claim requiring the intake of 3 mg/kg for an adult weighing more than 67 kg would exceed such limit.

For energy drinks, the maximum level of caffeine admitted is still 320 mg/l as established in 1998.

Written by: Federica Montozzi