Petition filed with FDA to withdraw Splenda from US market

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Splenda, Sucralose

A petition has been filed with the Food and Drug Administration
(FDA) calling on the agency to revoke its approval of the sweetener
Splenda, a move branded by manufacturer Tate & Lyle as a
commercial conspiracy to damage its product's image.

Filed by the consumer advocacy group Citizens for Health, the petition asks the FDA to withdraw the zero-calorie sweetener from the US market until further investigation can confirm its safety.

The group claims that "there were potential public health concerns regarding sucralose that were dismissed by the FDA" when the ingredient was first approved, and adds that no human clinical trials have been conducted on the finished product.

However, manufacturer of Splenda Tate & Lyle said in a statement that "the simple fact about sucralose is that there is no evidence that it causes any side effects whatsoever. This is why a safety statement or warning level has never been required."

And McNeil Nutritionals, which owns and distributes the US tabletop Splenda brand, said the safety of sucralose is well documented in more than 100 scientific studies conducted over a 20-year period.

"Sucralose and, specifically, the safety data on sucralose, has been reviewed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other national regulatory agencies, as well as by international health authorities such as the World Health Organization, and found to be safe for use by all consumers, including children, pregnant women and people with diabetes," said the frim.

However, Citizens for Health claims that people suffering from adverse side effects after consuming Splenda are increasingly turning to the web to document their experiences, which include skin rashes, headaches and severe gastrointestinal problems.

"The sheer number of complaints on the internet warrant an investigation," said the group's chairman Jim Turner.

But Tate & Lyle has suggested that there is more behind the Citizens for Health petition, and the meeting it organized on Monday to inform the press of its intentions.

The public relations firm Qorvis Communications, which was involved in spreading the word about this meeting, is the same agency used by the US Sugar Association, which has been involved in a lengthy battle with McNeil Nutritionals over the marketing of Splenda.

Qorvis was also selected by the Sugar Association to create the website TruthAboutSplenda.com, which publishes information about Splenda, including comments from "deceived" consumers.

Indeed, the latest step in the battle between the sugar industry and the marketers of the sweetener occurred just last week. A federal court on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit brought by McNeil Nutritionals against the Sugar Association, accusing it of false advertising in connection with the TruthAboutSplenda.com website.

Tate & Lyle now believes that the actions of Citizens for Health are "another tactic in a long chain of orchestrated events led by organizations representing bodies with clear commercial interests."

But for its part, Citizens for Health denies any charges of conspiracy.

"I have been attacking industrial sweeteners since 1969. Splenda is just the latest in the industry's efforts to fool consumers by taking an industrial chemical, making up statements about it and trying to pass it off as something it isn't," Turner told FoodNavigatorUSA.com.

"We are opposed to it, and are delighted to join forces with anyone else who is opposed to it," he said, adding that his group specifically sought out Qorvis because of its work with TruthAboutSplenda.

The FDA has said it plans to review the petition filed by Citizens for Health.

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