WASHINGTON — Caffeine is a central part of most Americans’ daily routines — from the morning coffee to the lunchtime soda to the post-dinner square of chocolate. And while the substance occurs naturally in more than 60 plants, not all of the caffeine consumed is natural. Much of it is synthesized in pharmaceutical plants overseas.
Murray Carpenter, author of “Caffeinated: How Our Daily Habit Helps, Hurts and Hooks Us,” explains there are two ways to obtain the pure powdered form of caffeine.
One way is to extract it from a product in which caffeine naturally occurs, such as coffee or tea. The other way is to synthesize, or make, caffeine from urea and other chemical precursors.
Carpenter says the U.S. imports 15 million pounds of synthetic caffeine powder each year; most of it is blended into soft drinks.
“That’s enough to fill a freight train 2.5 miles long,” Carpenter says.
“If you look at a can of, say, Coca-Cola, and you think,