Frito-Lay's new caffeinated line of Cracker Jacks elicits criticism from CSPI

PepsiCo's Frito-Lay has stirred up controversy with its plan to launch an extended line of Cracker Jacks snacks, called Cracker Jack'd, which includes a caffeinated snack called Power Bites.

The new line will include snack mixes and popcorn clusters, as well as two flavors of Power Bites, which contain coffee as an ingredient, a Frito-Lay spokesman told Ad Age. The product is still being finalized, but the spokesman informed Ad Age that each 2-oz. Power Bites package is expected to "contain approximately 70 mg of caffeine from coffee."

The Center for Science in the Public Interest — a health advocacy group that has a history of contesting big brands it believes pose a threat to consumers' health — worries the snack is a risk to children, who could suffer from potential side effects of caffeine, such as anxiety, restlessness, irritability, excitability and insomnia.

"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?" CSPI said Wednesday. The organization wrote a letter to the Food and Drug Administration concerning the product, saying, "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 Frito-Lay spokesman, however, insisted that the Power Bites line has been specifically developed for adults and will be marketed toward only adult consumers, and that the packaging and appearance will differ from that of Cracker Jacks to prevent confusion.

"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 [the] FDA speaks to caffeine — not coffee — and is not an exhaustive list of the safe uses of caffeine in foods and beverages," the spokesman said. "Rather it represents one particular recognized safe use."

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