FDA publishes consumer article on sweetener safety

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Artificial sweeteners Sucralose Mintel

Artificial sweeteners have received a strong endorsement this month
from the US government, which has published a fact sheet on sugar
substitutes that reconfirms its position on their safety.

Published in the July/August issue of the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Consumer Magazine​, the article promotes artificial sweeteners as a means to help consumers control their weight.

The news is likely to be well received by the 180 million American adults currently consuming low-calorie and sugar-free foods and beverages, but will also no doubt raise a new wave of protests from the nation's growing anti-sweetener lobby, which takes a hard stand against the health risks posed by these products.

But according to the FDA article, "for each of the approved sweeteners, the typical amount used by US consumers is well within designated acceptable daily intake levels (ADI), or levels that can be consumed safely every day over a lifetime."

The FDA also references the American Dietetic Association (ADA), which says that "artificial sweeteners can help consumers cut down on calories and control weight, help to manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, and potentially prevent cavities."

The US regulatory body currently approves five artificial sweeteners, which it regulates as food additives. These are aspartame, saccharin, acesulfame-K, neotame and sucralose.

The new fact sheet states that the FDA evaluates a sweetener's composition and properties, how much of the substance is likely to be consumed, and various types of safety studies. It also provides a brief regulatory history of each of these products.

But according to a recent report by market researcher Mintel, almost two thirds of Americans are concerned about the safety of artificial sweeteners. And although sales so far do not appear to have been affected, Mintel suggests that this could potentially have an impact on the expected continued growth of the sugar-free market.

On the up side, the report also suggests that there remains a market opportunity for what could be considered the 'safest' sweetener.

"While the sugar-free market is expanding, there is concern and confusion among some medical professionals and consumers as to the safety of these products. The public is confronted with an array of facts and statistics that elevate health concerns and raise the issue of whether sugar-free is worth the potential risk,"​ said Marcia Mogelonsky, senior analyst for Mintel.

The market for sugar-free foods and beverages in the US was last year valued at $5.9bn, a slight but steady growth totaling 24 percent since 1999. According to Mintel, the sugar-free market is forecast to grow 12 percent to reach $7.4bn by 2009. It added, however, that unforeseen concerns about the safety of artificial sweeteners and new product innovations could shift the forecast.

But according to the Calorie Control Council, "the FDA Consumer article, along with other recent regulatory developments mentioned in the article, will hopefully put to rest some of the widely-circulated rumors about aspartame and sucralose in particular."

To view the FDA article, click here​.

For the FoodNavigator-USA.com article on Mintel's artificial sweetener report, click here​.

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