December 20, 2012

Beans, Leaves And Caffeinated Bacon?

Every weekday morning, I wake up and jog. Then I shower and get ready for work. My morning routine ends with a nice cup of coffee or green tea—caffeinated, of course. Now, part of the reason why I take my morning drink is because I absolutely love the way coffee tastes. I also love the flavors of green tea. But more honestly, I love the caffeine that accompanies the wonderful flavors of the beans and leaves. I feel invigorated and ready to tackle the day. Sure, I also feel a little bit wired, but I like that feeling. If you’re anything like me, then you too don’t miss a morning tea or cup of joe.

I have long known that caffeine is a drug, a highly addictive drug. I also have decided to just enjoy it in my coffee and tea and not worry too much since I don’t drink that much. However, in the last week, I heard a story on NPR’s All Things Considered about the prevalence of caffeine in foods other than coffee and tea. One other food and drink the report acknowledged was soda, but it also found that the traditional caffeinated drinks are not the only foods and drinks with caffeine in them anymore.

Now even snack foods such as Cracker Jacks have caffeine added to them. So what’s the problem you ask? Well, let me tell you. It is not necessarily that caffeine is being added; rather, the problem is that caffeine is not regulated by the FDA according to the NPR story on caffeine. Companies do not have to list how much caffeine has been added to their products. Those products that have caffeine naturally also do not have to identify how much.

Though I love coffee and tea and caffeine, I do not like the fact that companies do not have to tell consumers how much caffeine they are getting in their diets. Some people are highly sensitive to caffeine and even the minutest amount can cause a reaction. For some this reaction manifests itself as the jitters, excited talking, or even as anxiety. If I were one of these individuals, I would want to know that I was eating or drinking something with caffeine in it.

Naturally, most people know when they are ingesting caffeine, but if companies can caffeinate their foods and drinks without even listing caffeine as an ingredient, then this is a problem. Well, okay, maybe problem is a little heavy, but at the very least this seems unfair. When we purchase items, we should know if we are eating or drinking a drug like caffeine.

If a company adds caffeine, they should have to inform the consumer. Because caffeine has an effect on all of us—be it euphoria or jitters—we should know when we eat or drink something with the drug in it. Sure, caffeine is not a drug in the same sense as illicit drugs, but it does have a physiological effect on us. For that reason alone, companies should have to notify us when their products are caffeinated.

This whole discussion made me think of the second episode of Futurama’s first season called “The Series has Landed.” In it Fry says, “I’m never gonna get used to the 31st century. Caffeinated bacon? Baconated grapefruit? ADMIRAL Crunch?” Before we know it, caffeinated bacon will be a breakfast staple along with caffeinated pancakes and waffles and even scrambled eggs. Hopefully, by then, we will know how much caffeine we eat and drink.

Image Credit: Photos.com

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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