Survey: 92% of Americans clueless about safe caffeine limits despite daily consumption

Despite caffeine’s widespread popularity, the vast majority of Americans don’t know how much is safe to consume in a day, according to new consumer research from IFIC.

Rachel French, Contributing writer

May 3, 2024

2 Min Read
caffeine addiction

At a Glance

  • Most Americans (80%) consume caffeine daily, often multiple times, yet only 8% know the safe daily limit.
  • Coffee is the top source of caffeine for Americans (over 50%), followed by soft drinks (17%).
  • Despite believing caffeine is safe (78%), very few (less than 10%) correctly identified the safe daily intake (400 mg).

In a recent consumer survey, the International Food Information Council (IFIC) reported only 8% of Americans knew how much caffeine is safe to consume in a day. That means a whopping 92% of Americans are in the dark when it comes to safe caffeine consumption.

Caffeine is a wildly popular stimulant. In fact, IFIC’s Spotlight Survey: Caffeine found 80% of Americans consume caffeine every day. Nearly half (47%) said they ingest caffeine multiple times per day.

Only 12% of Americans reported they don’t consume caffeine at all.

Most Americans (51%) reported they consume caffeine because it’s part of their routines. About a third (30%) consume caffeine for energy and about a fifth (21%) consume caffeine because they like the taste of products that contain caffeine.

It’s not surprising that coffee is Americans’ top pick as a caffeine source. According to the National Coffee Association, coffee is the beverage most consumed by Americans — beating out even tap water. IFIC reported more than half (54%) get caffeine from all varieties of coffee beverages.

Soft drinks are another popular caffeine source (17%), as well as desserts and candies (10%), energy drinks (7%) and tea (7%).

Caffeine safety

According to IFIC’s survey, most Americans (78%) agree that caffeine is safe to consume. Despite this, only 8% of Americans correctly identified how much caffeine is safe to consume each day.

Respondents were asked to identify how many cups of coffee were safe to consume each day for healthy nonpregnant adults, considering each 8-ounce cup contains 100 milligrams of caffeine. Less than 10% correctly identified four cups, or 400 milligrams of caffeine, as safe. Almost half (48%) said one or two cups were safe to consume.

“When respondents were asked, ‘How much coffee do you believe a healthy (nonpregnant) person can safely consume each day?’ only 8% answered correctly,” Tony Flood, senior director of food safety at IFIC, said. “That means 92% of Americans are potentially confused about the correct amount of caffeine they should be consuming each day.”

When asked how much caffeine is safe to consume, almost half (46%) said they weren’t sure. Only 6% cited the correct amount of up to 400 milligrams. About a third (32%) said up to 100 milligrams or 200 milligrams is safe, 1% said more than 400 milligrams and 9% said no amount of caffeine is safe to consume.

Consumers are more confident about their knowledge of the amounts of caffeine in beverages like soft drinks, of which 67% said they know “a lot” or a “fair amount” about its caffeine content, brewed coffee (66%), energy drinks (52%) and tea (50%). They were less confident about food sources of caffeine like chocolate (39%), caffeine supplements (33%) and desserts (32%).

About the Author(s)

Rachel French

Contributing writer

Rachel French joined Informa’s Health & Nutrition Network in 2013. Her career in the natural products industry started with a food and beverage focus before transitioning into her role as managing editor of Natural Products Insider, where she covered the dietary supplement industry. French left Informa Markets in 2019, but continues to freelance for both FBI and NPI.

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