The mother of a child born with multiple birth defects 15 years ago told a press conference today that her consumption of 10 to 12 cups of coffee a day during the pregnancy may have been responsible for the birth defects.

Dawn Prevette of Virginia Beach, Va. said: "I probably caused it [the defects], but inadvertently."

Prevette's thus became the first case to be filled with the Caffeine Birth Defects Clearing House, whose formation was announced simultaneously by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Last November CSPI, a privately funded consumer group, petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to require pregnancy warning labels on coffee and tea and to start an educational campaign to alert health professionals about potential problems.

The National Coffee Association has consistently denied there is any relationship between excessive caffeine consumption and birth defects in humans; a scientific consultant for the association, Dr. Irwin Miller, said that putting warning labels on coffee would be "crying wolf," but he admitted that excessive caffeine consumption has caused brith defects in some animal studies.

FDA expects to have results some time this spring of a new animal study but the agency's commissioner, Dr. Jere Goyan, has already said preliminary results of the study show "a positive association between caffeine and birth defects." Should the final results hold up, Goyan said, the agency would have to act.