"Boxes of Cracker Jack are famous for having a toy surprise
inside. But what parent suspects that Cracker Jack might come with
a surprising dose of a mildly addictive stimulant drug?" the Center
for Science in the Public Interest said Wednesday. CSPI, known for
taking on big brands for a variety of reasons, charges that the
planned snack violates federal food rules. "Caffeine is generally
recognized as safe only in cola-type beverages and only at
concentrations of 0.02% or less (about 72 mg per 12 oz.)," the
organization said in a letter to the U.S. Food and
A Frito-Lay spokesman told Ad Age that Power Bites will include
"two flavors that will contain coffee, a natural source of
caffeine, as an ingredient." He added: "We stand by the safety of
all products in the Cracker Jack 'd line, including those that
contain coffee. It is worth pointing out the regulation referenced
in CSPI's letter to FDA speaks to caffeine -- not coffee -- and is
not an exhaustive list of the safe uses of caffeine in foods and
beverages. Rather it represents one particular recognized safe
While Frito-Lay is still finalizing the product, Power Bites are
expected to "contain approximately 70 mg of caffeine from coffee in
each 2 oz. package," he said.
The line extension comes as Frito-Lay seeks to expand its lineup
of premium and value brands -- which include Cracker Jacks -- to
appeal to an increasingly bifurcated consumer
group. The Jack 'd lineup will include "a variety of products,
including snack mixes [and] popcorn clusters" in addition to the
Power Bites, the Frito-Lay spokesman said.
The website nationwidecandy.com shows what
potentially might be on the way.
In a letter to PepsiCo
executives, CSPI said "caffeine is a mildly addictive stimulant
drug that is totally inappropriate to be included in foods consumed
by children," noting that effects include "anxiety, restlessness,
irritability, excitability and insomnia."
The Frito-Lay spokesman said: "Cracker Jack 'd is a product line
specifically developed for adult consumers and will not be marketed
to children. All marketing for the products will be exclusively
aimed at adult consumers, and the package design and appearance are
wholly different from Cracker Jack to ensure there is no confusion
among consumers. The presence of coffee and the caffeine that comes
with it is clearly called out on both the front and back of the
CSPI also took issue with Kraft Foods Group's new Mio "energy"
drink flavoring product, which contains caffeine, as well as Jelly
Belly's "Extreme Sport Beans." Kraft markets Mio to young adults. Sport Beans target athletes.
"Unless the FDA begins enforcing its regulations, I fear that
we'll see caffeine being added to ever-more improbable drinks and
snacks, putting children, unsuspecting pregnant women, and others
at risk," CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson said in a
statement. "How soon before we have caffeinated burgers, burritos
or breakfast cereals?"
A Kraft spokesman said: "We have carefully reviewed FDA
requirements and believe our product is in compliance with current
regulations for food ingredients. FDA is currently evaluating
caffeine and has explained that they do not object to caffeine use
in other beverages beyond colas. The caffeine level in our product
is comparable to what is naturally found in coffee and tea."