Caffeine is probably the most frequently ingested pharmacologically active substance in the world. It is found in common beverages (coffee, tea, soft drinks), in products containing cocoa or chocolate, and in medications. Because of its wide consumption at different levels by most segments of the population, the public and the scientific community have expressed interest in the potential for caffeine to produce adverse effects on human health. The possibility that caffeine ingestion adversely affects human health was investigated based on reviews of (primarily) published human studies obtained through a comprehensive literature search. Based on the data reviewed, it is concluded that for the healthy adult population, moderate daily caffeine intake at a dose level up to 400 mg day(-1) (equivalent to 6 mg kg(-1) body weight day(-1) in a 65-kg person) is not associated with adverse effects such as general toxicity, cardiovascular effects, effects on bone status and calcium balance (with consumption of adequate calcium), changes in adult behaviour, increased incidence of cancer and effects on male fertility. The data also show that reproductive-aged women and children are 'at risk' subgroups who may require specific advice on moderating their caffeine intake. Based on available evidence, it is suggested that reproductive-aged women should consume </=300 mg caffeine per day (equivalent to 4.6 mg kg(-1) bw day(-1) for a 65-kg person) while children should consume </=2.5 mg kg(-1) bw day(-1).