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New potato chips from Golden Flake coated with caffeine

BIRMINGHAM (AP) — For a generation already buzzing on energy drinks, here’s a new snack — potato chips coated with caffeine.

NRG Phoenix Fury Potato Chips taste like extra-spicy barbecue chips, but they come with a caution label: not recommended for pregnant or nursing women, young children or anyone who is sensitive to caffeine.

The largest bag of Phoenix Fury chips weighs 31/2ounces, and the chip maker says downing the whole thing would be the caffeine equivalent of drinking 31/2big cups of brewed coffee. The chips won’t yellow your teeth like a mug of Colombian, but they will turn your fingertips bright orange.

Grab-and-go buyers

Birmingham-based Golden Flake Snack Foods Inc. is distributing the chips in 10 Southeastern states, and it plans to introduce another flavor in the fall. The company is particularly interested in the grab-and-go buyers who stop for a drink and purchase a snack to go with it.

“Energy drinks are the No. 1 growth item in convenience stores and supermarkets. As we looked at it, the people buying those are the same customers we have,” said Golden Flake spokeswoman Julie McLaughlin.

Energy drinks loaded with caffeine and sugar have come under fire from nutritionists, and an expert at John Hopkins University said excessive amounts of caffeine can lead to dizziness, nausea and even heart problems.

“Caffeine really is a drug, and it’s important for people to recognize that and use it accordingly,” said Roland Griffiths, a professor of behavioral biology.

But aside from any potential health threats, Griffiths questioned why anyone would want caffeinated potato chips.

“It seems a little weird,” he said.

McLaughlin said Golden Flake hopes the chips appeal to buyers who want an energy boost but don’t like the taste of energy drinks like Red Bull and Monster.

A nutritionist with a consumer watchdog group, David Schardt, said energy chips may be a new idea, but manufacturers already put caffeine in plenty of other products.

“Chewing gum, yogurt — there are a bunch of them. Usually it is smaller companies doing it, trying to separate themselves from the market,” said Schardt, of the Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The trick to Phoenix Fury chips isn’t the potato, it’s the coating.

Warm chips fresh out of the cooker at the Golden Flake plant are moved by a conveyor belt into a drum where they are doused with a mixture that includes flour, salt, caffeine, vitamins and the amino acid taurine, a key ingredient in Red Bull.

Golden Flake won’t say exactly how much caffeine is in the seasoning, but Schardt said it’s good that the bags contain the caution label.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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