Refreshments containing large quantities of caffeine should be clearly labelled to warn individuals about the dangers of consuming too much, researchers in the US have suggested.
According to the findings of a new study, which were published in the National Post, consuming more than 400 mg of coffee, tea or energy drinks - the equivalent of two to three eight ounce cups - could be damaging to a person's health. However, many consumers are unaware of the levels of caffeine in their favourite drinks.
Researchers found that individuals who become dependent on their daily fix of caffeine can suffer withdrawal symptoms, resulting in some continuing to consume large quantities when health conditions - such as heart disease or pregnancy - advise against it.
Laura Juliano, co-author of the study, said: "The negative effects of caffeine are often not recognised as such because it is a socially acceptable and widely-consumed drug that is well integrated into our customs and routines.
"While many people can consume caffeine without harm, for some it produces negative effects, physical dependence, interferes with daily functioning and can be difficult to give up."
Conclusions suggested that addiction problems may stem from manufacturers failing to identify how much caffeine is included in their product.
Ms Juliano added: "At this time, manufacturers are not required to label caffeine amounts and some products, such as energy drinks, do not have regulated limits on caffeine."
The American Psychiatric Association last year recognised "caffeine use disorder" as a health concern that was in need of additional research. Scientists conducting the latest study suggested that more than 50 per cent of regular caffeine users have difficulty quitting or even reducing their caffeine intake.
Clear labelling was put forward as a suggestion for providing consumers with more information about the food and drink they consume in the hope that individuals would make more responsible choices if they were aware of the potential health risks.
Labelling on a wider scale
Food labelling has become an important issue across the globe over the last few years, as governments attempt to give members of the public more choice about the items they purchase.
The 2013 horsemeat scandal has encouraged food retailers to roll out measures that give consumers a clearer picture of ingredients found in their food. However, several countries have expressed different opinions on the matter.
In the European Union, officials are preparing to consider a proposal from an influential committee calling for stricter labelling rules for chilled, fresh and frozen meat product from goats, sheep and pigs.
British Labour politician Glenis Willmott, who coordinated the resolution, has called for the mandatory labelling of place of birth for sheep, swine and goats. She claimed that such a move would allow consumers to see how far the produce had travelled and whether or not it had been reared in countries with good animal welfare standards.
This sentiment was echoed by Monique Goyens, director of the European Consumers' Organisation, who was quoted by Global Meat News as saying: "If we are to restore trust in the food sector - and more specifically in meat - there is no reason why consumers should only be given a partial idea of the origin of their meat."