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Could Caffeinated Peanut Butter Replace Your Coffee?

Photograph by Maura Wall Hernandez

A new peanut butter product packed with caffeine is drawing attention from New York Senator Chuck Schumer — and hopefully the U.S. FDA — because of its potential danger to both kids and adults.

The caffeinated peanut butter, called STEEM, is "natural peanut butter" made with peanuts, peanut oil and salt, and contains no artificial sweeteners (though it does contain agave nectar), according to the company's website. With every serving size suggestion, you'll also get a dose of caffeine worth two cups of coffee — about 150 milligrams. The caffeine, as listed on the ingredient label, comes from green coffee extract. As with most peanut butter serving size suggestions on the label, one serving size is two tablespoons. Each 8-ounce jar contains 1,200 mg of caffeine.

(Hold up. Have you ever made a PB&J with only two tablespoons? Because we totally haven't. Just saying.)

Given the small serving size and peanut butter's popularity among kids, Sen. Chuck Schumer is asking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to review the product with a thorough investigation. Sen. Schumer told the New York Post that "we need the FDA to let everyone know they're not asleep at the wheel about the high levels of caffeine being infused into our snacks."

RELATED: How to Avoid Peanut Allergies in Kids

The FDA has investigated other caffeine-laced products in recent years, and has previously issued warnings about gum containing only 40 mg of caffeine. That product, made by Wrigley, was pulled from stores after the FDA warning. In a statement issued by Sen. Schumer on Nov. 8, he called for the FDA to take immediate action in investigating caffeine use in all food products.

"Parents across the country shouldn't have to worry about a scenario in which their child might unknowingly bite into a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that contains more caffeine than two cups of coffee," Schumer said in the statement. "The thought of super-caffeinated peanut butter should give everyone the jitters because of the potential health threat it poses, especially in the hands of children and teenagers."

According to the National Peanut Board, 94 percent of American households consume peanut butter.

"Parents across the country shouldn't have to worry about a scenario in which their child might unknowingly bite into a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that contains more caffeine than two cups of coffee," said Sen. Chuck Schumer.

The brand's website carries no warning about whether it's safe to give caffeinated peanut butter to children, but it does explicitly say that you shouldn't give it to your animals. (It's still generally safe to give your dog regular, all-natural peanut butter with no added salt or sugar.)

Schumer's concern isn't just about kids, though. As a powerful stimulant, overuse of caffeine can also cause increased heart rate and blood pressure. Caffeine toxicity can cause symptoms that range from vomiting, diarrhea and disorientation, to much more serious ailments such as seizures, tremors and heart arrhythmia, and can be fatal in some cases.

For comparison's sake, a regular brewed coffee from Starbucks contains 260 mg of caffeine for a 12-ounce tall size, 330 mg for a 16-ounce grande and 410 mg for a 20-ounce venti.

According to the FDA, an adult's average consumption of daily caffeine is about 200 mg, or the amount of two 5-ounce cups of coffee. The FDA recommends 4-5 cups of coffee as a safe level of daily caffeine consumption for adults, or about 400 mg. Senator Schumer pointed out in a statement that the American Academy of Pediatrics has not sufficiently studied the effects of caffeine on children and adolescents. The organization advises against children's consumption of caffeine due to potentially harmful developmental effects as well as addictive properties.

Steem's caffeinated peanut butter, which was developed for bodybuilders and athletes, is currently only being sold in fitness centers, CrossFit franchises and specialty stores in Massachusetts and Connecticut, but can also be easily purchased online and shipped.

We think we'll stick to regular coffee and regular peanut butter, thanks.

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