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Tragic Warning After Young Man's Accidental Caffeine Powder Overdose

The grieving parents of a young man who died after accidentally ingesting a lethal amount of caffeine have issued a warning in the hope it might "save someone's life".

Lachlan Foote, 21, from the Blue Mountains region of NSW, was remembered as friendly, generous and musically talented young man when he died on January 1, 2018 -- just one day shy of his 22nd birthday.

He'd been out celebrating the New Year with friends, returning to his Blackheath home and giving his mother a hug, before making a protein shake and getting ready for bed.

"I think my protein powder has gone off," he messaged a friend on Facebook, hours before he died.

"Just made an anti hangover / workout shake and it tasted awful."

The next morning, his parents Nigel and Dawn found Lachlan "dead and cold" on the bathroom floor.

Lachlan Foote
Lachlan was remembered as a talented musician and generous friend. Photo: Facebook.

In a Facebook post, Lachlan's dad Nigel said he and his wife Dawn initially believed their son died from a "dodgy batch" of protein powder.

However, after an agonising 19-month wait, the NSW Coroner finally returned the results: Lachlan died from caffeine toxicity. (An inquest was not held.)

His parents believe he accidentally consumed a lethal dose of caffeine powder, a product marketed as a pre-workout supplement to improve training and concentration.

The white powder is easily available in Australia, selling for about US $30 per kilogram. Although online retailers claim it is restricted to only approved commercial buyers, it is readily available via online marketplaces.

Caffeine powder as advertised on eBay for $80 per 100g. Photo: eBay.

Although caffeine affects people differently due to weight, alcohol use and other factors, it becomes lethal if between 5-10g of caffeine is consumed, according to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation -- equal to about 80 cups of coffee.

"We think Lachlan obtained the caffeine powder from a friend or work associate as a thorough search of his computer and bank statements, by both myself and police, revealed no mention of caffeine powder, only related protein powder products," Nigel wrote on Facebook.

"Therefore, it appears the pure caffeine powder was bought by someone else and shared, so it's very unlikely that Lachlan never got to read the warning label on the packet and was unaware of its potency.

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"And the fact that he kept the caffeine powder in our kitchen pantry (where one of us might have mistaken it for flour or sugar) proves the point -- Lachlan would never have kept it there is he had known it was a threat to the family. He was a bright, imaginative young man."

Lachlan Foote
Lachlan as a young boy. Photo: Facebook.

Nigel, who could not be reached for this story, wrote on Facebook that he was concerned Lachlan's friends might also be in danger.

"We bear no ill feeling toward whoever shared the caffeine powder with Lachlan as we're sure this was just a tragic, innocent mistake," Nigel wrote.

"However, it's scandalous that this product has not been banned in Australia, and we feel that the NSW Food Authority and Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) are failing in their duty to protect consumers."

Caffeine is a stimulant, and although freely available is strictly regulated by the FSANZ when added to food or drinks.

Red Bull contains about 32mg of caffeine per 100ml, according to the ADF. Photo: AAP.

Overdoses usually present as tremors, nausea and vomiting, a very fast or irregular heart rate, confusion and panic attack, or seizures, according to the ADF. There were 297 calls to the NSW Poisons Information Line between 2004 and 2010, mostly with reports of tremors, shaking, and heart palpitations.

Deaths from caffeine toxicity are extremely rare, but they do happen.

Last year, the Food and Drug Authority (FDA) in the United States banned the sale of large quantities after it was linked to at least two deaths.

Ohio teenager Logan Stiner, 18, dead in 2014 after consuming caffeine powder purchased from a friend. A few weeks later, Georgia college graduate James Sweatt, 24, died after blending a drink with caffeine powder.

"It’s just insane that something so dangerous is so readily available," Nigel said.

"Please warn your friends, talk to your children… and perhaps check your kitchen cupboards.

"Pure caffeine powder looks just like any other white powder… but a heaped teaspoon of it will kill you."

Contact the author: abrucesmith@networkten.com.au