September 19, 2014

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FDA issues warning after teen dies from caffeine overdose

Logan Stiner

Logan Stiner

The Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers to avoid pure powdered caffeine sold on the Internet after the death of a LaGrange teen.

Even a teaspoon of the powder could be lethal — it is equivalent to 25 cups of coffee. Logan Stiner, 18, died May 27 after consuming it.

Stiner left school early May 27 and was found a few hours later on the floor of his home about 11 a.m. A bag with a small amount of caffeine powder later was found in the house.

An autopsy showed that Stiner, a wrestler at Keystone High School, had more than 70 micrograms of caffeine per milliliter of blood in his system. It was far more than the 3 to 15 micrograms of caffeine per milliliter of blood that a regular coffee drinker would have, according to Lorain County Coroner Dr. Stephen Evans.

“I wasn’t going to let it go because I just didn’t understand,” Stiner’s mother, Katie Stiner, told The Chronicle-Telegram after Evans reached his conclusion. “He was at the height of his game in life.”

Evans said he also couldn’t understand why a healthy, young teenager would die so suddenly and, as a result, he decided to conduct additional tests beyond those done for a routine autopsy. It was from those tests that Evans could determine that caffeine had killed the 18-year-old.

The FDA said teenagers and young adults may be particularly drawn to the caffeine powder, which is a stimulant. Caffeine powder is marketed as a dietary supplement, and it is unregulated, unlike caffeine added to soda.

FDA spokeswoman Jennifer Dooren said those who drink coffee, tea or soda may be aware of caffeine’s less-serious effects, like nervousness and tremors, and might not realize that the powdered form is a pure chemical.

“The difference between a safe amount and a lethal dose of caffeine in these powdered products is very small,” she said.

The powder is also almost impossible to measure with common kitchen tools, the FDA said. Volume measures like teaspoons aren’t precise enough.

The agency added the products may carry minimal or insufficient labeling. Consumers might not be aware that even a small amount can cause an overdose.

“It’s sold at such a high concentration. You would have to be a chemist to know how much to take,” Evans said.

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg recently said that the agency needs to better understand the role of the stimulant, especially on children. The agency is investigating the safety of energy drinks and energy shots, prompted by consumer reports of illness and death. FDA is also looking at caffeine in food as manufacturers have added caffeine to candy, nuts and other snack foods in recent years.

Consumer advocate Jim O’Hara of the Center for Science in the Public Interest praised the FDA’s warning, but said the agency needs to go further to keep powdered caffeine off the market. The powder is easily available on Amazon.com and other online sites.

“The overuse and misuse of caffeine in the food supply is creating a wild-West marketplace, and it’s about time the sheriff noticed and did something,” O’Hara said of the FDA.

Symptoms of caffeine overdose or toxicity include rapid or erratic heartbeat, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea and disorientation. The caffeine powder caused Stiner to have a heart arrhythmia and seizure, which killed him.

Stiner’s aunt, Kelly Stiner, had told The Chronicle the family was shocked by the cause of his death.

“We’re in the dark … we had no idea this stuff existed,” she said.

Though Evans said he’s only heard of a few caffeine overdoses, he believes caffeine could be the cause behind other similar deaths.

“Normally it’s diagnosed as a cardiac problem or a seizure,” Evans said.

Coroners cannot determine whether someone died from a caffeine overdose from an initial toxicology report, Evans said. They would need to conduct additional tests as Evans did.

“We weren’t satisfied with not knowing what he died of,” he said.

After Stiner’s death, Evans said he has reached out both to the FDA and to the Ohio State Coroners Association to recommend other coroners check for caffeine levels after cardiac-related deaths.

“I think in the state of Ohio it’s going to be looked for more. Hopefully in other places in the United States they’re going to look for it more, too,” he said.


  • Munch Hausen

    I’m not a big government regulation guy, but seems to me this is a drug and it should be regulated. At the very least, you should have to be 21 to purchase it.

    • Rtgh123

      So people need to be 21 to buy a Coke or a cup of coffee?

  • Sis Delish

    Hey, while they’re at it, why not Regulate High School Wrestling and the actions many young men take to “meet weight”?

    • Katie Franklin Stiner

      Any time you wish to discuss facts of how MY wrestler MAINTAINED weight by all means, gimme a yell!

      You apparently like the attention and attack with your fake name you troll.
      Interesting, your apparent ignorance toward my dead son and wrestlers in general. I welcome the challenge of your enligjtened intellect, or rather lack of, any time. Don’t plan to stay long however.

      • Sis Delish

        I know first hand what lengths young men go to Meet Weight. I do not know a thing about Maintained Weight.

        Meeting Weight typically involved Fasting, Pre-Mature Bowel Evacuation, etc., all non-healthy activities. That’s my recollection.

        There is a difference between Meeting & Maintaining, and In No Way was this an attack on your specific situation.

        I forgive you for the Troll comment.

        • jz

          She’s being too nice.

        • Sis Delish

          Is this the type of heathy habit you spew about ? Does it include injesting huge quantities of powdered Caffeine?

          “Honestly, after further thought, smokers, fat people, alcoholics – anyone who lacks personal responsibility for their health should not be eligible for any insurance coverage pertaining to health issues that result from bad health habits. Why should my health insurance premiums be higher because these people lack personal responsibility? They should pay all expenses oit of pocket or die. Perhaps provide pain medication so that they will die more humanely. Same goes for people who have accidents due to wreckless behavior. Crash a motorcycle and it’s your own fault? Maybe some personal responsibility would have prevented the crash. Insurance should not cover this kind of thing.

          From YOUR posting three days ago, punk!

          • Rtgh123

            Smokers who believe that birth control should not be covered by insurance because it is a “personal responsibility” should not have their lung cancer covered by insurance. It is a personal responsibility to not smoke. Still makes sense to me.

          • nimitz1

            “accidents due to wreckless behavior” is the funniest phrase I’ve seen posted in a long while. Personally, I strive for wreckless behavior.

      • nimitz1

        I live in the Midwest, where wrestling is king of the hill when it comes to high school athletics. My son has wrestled, but quit after a year at the high school level because the coaches put too much pressure on the athletes and did not respect their academic commitments. I am aware that many of the athletes fast to meet weight classes. My son was pressured to shoot for the 105 weight class when his natural weight (at about 7% body fat) is 130. I teach at a college where well over 50% of the students are recruited by athletics. I have had a lot of wrestlers in my classes who tell me that all the same things go on in college. They are the first to say that the lifestyle is unhealthy. Several of these students have gone on to pursue careers in sports medicine in the hopes that they could someday bring healthier practices to wrestling.
        I am sorry for your loss, but I am pretty sure the above comment was not aimed at your son.

  • Tim Brookes

    I hope this family finds peace knowing what happened.

    • Katie Franklin Stiner

      Nice of the Chronicle to do a little homework to put facts out there. Seemed better to just print it with garbage and insult the second the final report came out. maybe now is a good time to get the facts straight. At least we won’t have to worry as a family that another loved one will collapse when the headline is read. Now you guys can just stop
      Calling us and ringing the bell. It’s over. You got my boy and I have a good
      Liner for the car box.

  • Retreat

    I would love to see the memo from the FDA about this warning. I don’t think a warning was issued base solelly on this incident.

  • guest

    C.T,i know its your job but please just back off and let this family be.as a mother myself I can not imagine how much pain she is going through.i used to live there and all of the stiner family are very good people with very good kids.give them time to grieve.every article I see on this kid makes me mad,let his family grieve.your crowding them to much to get “a good story.” even as you took pictures of their graduation almost all had this kids girlfriend in it ready to burst into tears.your not boosting numbers doing this,your making a lot of people mad.let this mother grieve and give her her space to deal with this.she doesn’t need a million reporters on her to get the scoop