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Brussels, 18 July 2002

Commission adopts new labelling rules on caffeine and quinine

Consumers avoiding drinks and foods containing caffeine or quinine, will benefit from new labelling rules adopted today by the European Commission. Whilst consumption of moderate levels of both substances is unlikely to pose any health risks for most consumers, others may suffer adverse effects from these substances, in some cases even if consumed in very small quantities. The new rules will alert consumers to the presence of these substances and, in the case of caffeine, indicate where the level exceeds a certain limit.

Quinine, used as flavouring in some soft drinks (such as tonic water), should be avoided by persons with certain metabolic disorders, or with a hypersensitivity to the substance. High caffeine consumption may trigger temporary behavioural changes, particularly in children, and is also not recommended for pregnant women.

Current rules do not require the compulsory or specific mentioning of flavourings in ingredient lists. Caffeine or quinine, used as a flavouring, might not therefore be listed. Furthermore, even where caffeine is listed as an ingredient, there is no current requirement to indicate whether the level is high. The new rules will address these shortcomings and harmonise the differing national rules currently applying to these substances across the European Union thus facilitating intra-Community trade in the products concerned.

The new rules will apply to drinks containing more than 150 milligrams of caffeine per litre. Normal cola drinks will not be affected because their caffeine levels fall below this limit. Neither will drinks based on tea and coffee, as long as the name of the drink makes clear it has been made from tea or coffee. Putting the term 'high caffeine content' and the amount in the same field of vision as the name of the product will alert consumers to unexpectedly high caffeine levels in certain soft drinks especially in most of the so-called "energy drinks".

The new rules should come into effect by 1 July 2004.

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