The Hill

Sen. Charles Schumer Calls STEEM, A Caffeinated Peanut Butter Invented To Be Hangover Cure, 'Dangerous'

New York’s Senior Senator warned in a letter addressed to regulatory authorities on Sunday that a new brand of peanut butter could be dangerous. Sen. Chuck Schumer is calling on Food and Drug Administration to investigate STEEM, a peanut butter that supplies 170 milligrams of caffeine per serving (2 tablespoons). By comparison, a 12-ounce Coke boasts about 35 mg of caffeine, while a regular cup of coffee ranges between 95 and 200 mg, according to the Mayo Clinic.

STEEM STEEM Caffeinated Peanut Butter Courtesy of STEEM

"We've been on the market for over a year and a half keeping western Mass and northern Connecticut awake with no complaints aside from oil separation (it's natural, just stir)," Chris Pettazzoni, one of the founders of STEEM told Medical Daily in an email. "New ideas are always regarded with suspicion, so we look forward to the opportunity to prove that we have created something with value."

According to its website, STEEM “delivers protein, electrolytes, and caffeine, granting you hours of endurance and focus, and freeing you from distractions like hunger and fatigue.” Seeking to “provide a consistent release of sustained energy,” peanut butter is the key factor, since our bodies naturally digest this childhood favorite slowly, the website says. The Massachusetts-based company sells its product online and through just 12 stores in its home state and Connecticut. 

Pettazzoni explained how he and his co-founders, Andrew Brach and Keith Barnofski, came up with the idea for caffeinated peanut butter in a noble attempt to discover the holy grail of all foods: the hangover cure. "Once we realized how well it worked for providing long term energy, we knew we had something pretty special," Pettazzoni said.

Despite such whimsical beginnings, Schumer is not taking this latest development in food science lying down. Schumer explained in his press release that caffeine is a powerful stimulant, and unsafe amounts can cause jitters, speeding heart beat, headaches, dizziness, raised blood pressure, insomnia, and other symptoms. An overdose can be fatal.

Since the FDA does not require the amount of caffeine to be listed on food labels, the senator said, “this stuff and other snacks can have a lot of caffeine and the consumer wouldn’t even know,” according to The New York Post.

“It can spread to all kinds of other snacks, even Popsicles, candy, things that kids eat,” Schumer told The Post. “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.”

Though some might argue no one would be asleep at the wheel given the proper dose of caffeine-laced-peanut butter, the senator’s point is that kids and teens might easily get their hands on this product, while well-intentioned parents might simply mistake this product for the usual peanut butter fare and accidentally serve it to children. Pregnant women might also be endangered by this product.

Meanwhile, STEEM could be setting “a new standard within the larger snack food industry,” said Schumer, who is urging the FDA to decide whether the product should be pulled from shelves.

The owners of STEEM told The Post they welcome regulatory review as they have complied with any and every required obligation before selling their product. (While proper food manufacturing and labeling is required under law, the FDA does not routinely inspect peanut butter products before they come to market.)

“STEEM is perfectly safe when used as directed,” the company said. The product is marketed exclusively to adults, with the label indicating it is not recommended for children.

Note: Quotes from STEEM founder Chris Pettazzoni were added to this article following original publication.

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