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Caffeine is a naturally occurring stimulant found in tea, coffee, cocoa and cola as well as some other plant based foods such as guarana. It can also be produced synthetically and used as an additive in 'energy type drinks'. Foods containing caffeine have been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Indigenous tribes in Africa and South America used it in the form of coffee and cocoa. Caffeine is one of the most commonly consumed stimulants in the world. Absorbed easily and rapidly by both the stomach and small intestine, it then circulates throughout the whole body, including the brain. Like everything, caffeine should be consumed in moderate amounts.


Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant and low doses (ie 20-200 mg) are generally associated with mood effects, such as feelings of increased energy, efficiency, self-confidence, alertness, motivation and concentration. However, it has also been reported that caffeine, even in low doses, in some people may reduce the quality of life. It seems that these effects diminish with regular consumption.


As caffeine is not an essential component of a normal diet there are no Recommended Dietary Intakes. There are currently no recognized health standards for intake such as Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) or a safety limit established for caffeine exposure. Whilst research supports that a caffeine intake of up to 400 mg/day is not associated with an adverse effects in healthy adults, 3mg per kilogram weight is the level generally accepted as the recommended limit of caffeine intake for adults.

Adults generally consume about 232mg of caffeine per day per person from all sources. The table below will help you work out your caffeine intake from some of the most common sources.


Food Caffeine per serve Serving size
Coffee, espresso 78mg 40mL cup
Coffee, instant 60-80mg 250mL cup
Tea 10-50mg 250mL cup
Cola soft drink 50 mg 375mL can
Energy drink 80mg 250mL can
Milk chocolate drink 4.6mg 20g in 200mL milk
Chocolate, dark 11mg 20g piece
Chocolate milk 4mg 20g piece


  • Pregnant women may have concerns about their caffeine intake. Food Standards Australia and New Zealand advise that pregnant women should limit their daily caffeine consumption to 3 cups of instant style coffee or 1 express style coffee or 4 cups of tea or 4 cans (375ml) of cola beverage per day. Energy drinks with caffeine are not recommended
  • A small number of people are 'caffeine sensitive' and experience increased effects from caffeine. These people should seek advice from their doctor about their safe intake of caffeine
  • People with heart conditions should also discuss caffeine intake with their health care professional

Note:In most cases caffeine-free alternatives are available for people who are unable to consume caffeine.

This fact sheet contains general information and is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional for specific advice for your personal situation.

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Food Standards Australia and New Zealand Fact Sheets Caffeine June 2010
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Caffeine Sources: NUTTAB Australian Food Composition Tables. FSANZ 2006.

Heckman MA et al. Caffeine (1,3,7-trimethylxanthine) in foods: a comprehensive review on consumption, functionality, safety, and regulatory matters. J Food Sci Apr 2010 Vol 75 (3): R77-87

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Nawrot et al 2003 'Effects of caffeine on human health', Food Addit Contam, 20, 1-30