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FDA bans all caffeinated beverages and products

By Val Willingham, CNN
New ruling from the FDA bans coffee, tea, energy drinks, colas, and all caffeinated products.
New ruling from the FDA bans coffee, tea, energy drinks, colas, and all caffeinated products.
  • FDA bans all caffeine
  • New rules prohibit caffeine possession and distribution
  • Rule was part of 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

(CNN) -- Every day, nearly 90,000 people in the U.S. reach for a cup of coffee or tea, a soda, or an energy drink, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

And of those, thousands become caffeine addicts for life.

Now, in an effort to fight the war on all addictive drugs -- especially when it comes to children -- the FDA is issuing a new rule titled Prohibition of All Caffeine and Caffeinated Products Act.

The rule, which became effective March 31, completely prohibits the possession and sale of all caffeinated products, such as coffee, tea, energy drinks, sodas and soft drinks containing caffeine, and even over-the-counter medications containing caffeine such as stimulants and dietary aids.

This will make caffeine a Class B controlled substance, exactly like cocaine and other illegal stimulants, with the same mandatory jail sentences for possession and distribution.

"It's time we turned our attention to the greatest gateway drug of them all," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said. "Stimulant abuse in the U.S. starts with soda in the childhood years or coffee in the young adult years. All abuses of stimulant drugs, including methamphetamine and cocaine, were demonstrated to have used caffeine first. So we're cutting it off at the source here."

"Caffeine has gone unchecked, unregulated, and uncontrolled for too long," FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg said. "Putting these restrictions in place is necessary to protect the health of our citizens. A thimble-sized measure of pure caffeine in powder form can kill a grown adult. One box of stimulant pills can kill if eaten all at once."

Under the ruling, the FDA will work closely with states to make sure retailers completely remove all caffeinated products from public access. The agency will also work with retail businesses based on caffeine consumption, such as coffee shops, to transform them into new businesses such as juice bars.

The FDA also will help retailers better understand how to comply and how to protect children and adolescents from "addictive products." Manufacturers and retailers who do not comply may be subject to legal action.

David Howard, spokesman for Starbucks Co., the largest retail coffee distributor company in the U.S., said the new ruling comes as no surprise.

"Virtually everything in this announcement was already argued out on the Senate floor months ago," Howard said. "It's a shock, but we will be closing down and removing ourselves from the U.S. market." Other retailers and manufacturers, including Folgers, Inc., Maxwell House, Inc., Coca-Cola Company and Pepsico, Lipton LTD, and grocery chains nationwide echoed similar sentiments.

The rule was included as a key provision of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed by President Obama in March.