FSA reassess drink and chocolate caffeine pregnancy stance

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Caffeine

The UK-based Food Standard’s Agency (FSA) has revaluated its guidance on the recommended caffeine intake for pregnant women in a variety of products such as coffee, tea, cola drinks and even plain chocolate over health concerns.

Acting ahead of the publication of new study from the universities of Leeds and Leicester, as well as previous research into caffeine consumption, the UK-based regulator said that it was advising expecting mothers to limit their caffeine intake to 200mg a day.

The findings, which surveyed 2,500 pregnant women and their intake of the stimulant, linked caffeine consumption during pregnancy to increased risks of complications due to foetal growth restriction and the weight of a child.

New guidelines

The FSA said that women who has stuck with its previous guidance, set in 2001, to not to exceed 300mg of the stimulant a day should not be concerned, though should reduce their intake during the remainder of their pregnancy.

Under these latest guidelines, the risk assessor outlined rough estimates as to what constituted consuming 200mg of caffeine in a variety of products.

These are:-

  • 2 mugs of instant coffee ( at 100mg of caffeine each)
  • 1 mug of filter coffee (140mg each)
  • 2 mugs of tea (75mg each)
  • 5 cans of cola (up to 40mg each)
  • 2 cans of 'energy' drink (up to 80mg each)
  • 4 (50g) bars of plain chocolate (up to 50 mg each)

The FSA stated that caffeine in milk chocolate is estimated to be about half that of plain chocolate.

Moderation calls

Andrew Wadge, chief scientist for the agency, said that the new advice was not a call to cut out caffeine consumption altogether when carrying a child, but simply highlighting a need for moderation.

“We would emphasise that the risks are likely to be very small and believe our new advice, which is based on new research and has been considered by leading independent scientists, is sensible and proportionate,”​ he stated.

Industry body, the Coffee Science Information Centre (COSIC), said that the new guidelines still meant that between two to three cups of caffeinated coffee could be consumed by pregnant women a day in safe levels.

However, pointing to the evidence, a spokesperson for the group told BeverageDaily.com that the average level of caffeine intake amongst participants in the test was 159mg a day, well below even the current guidelines.

“This shows that pregnant women currently consume less that the 200 mg level already,”​ added the spokesperson.

Testing methodology

In the findings, which are to be published this week in the BMJ ​journal, 2635 low risk pregnant women within eight to twelve weeks of pregnancy were recruited for participation in the test.

Researchers then quantified the total caffeine intake from four weeks before conception to throughout the pregnancy by using a caffeine assessment tool to measure levels of the stimulant within each subject’s saliva.

Source: BMJ​Published online, doi:10.1136/bmj.a2332

“Maternal caffeine intake during pregnancy and risk of fetal growth restriction: a large prospective observational study”Authors: Justin C Konje, Janet E Cade, et al

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