How is saccharin regulated in Europe?

By Augustus Bambridge-Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

After a tragic death in India, we ask how saccharin is regulated in Europe. Image Source: Getty Images/Alina Hedz
After a tragic death in India, we ask how saccharin is regulated in Europe. Image Source: Getty Images/Alina Hedz

Related tags saccharin Regulation Eu

After a tragic death in India, the sweetener saccharin made the headlines. While it has widespread use in Europe, including the UK and EU, the sweetener is tightly regulated.

Last week, a girl in Punjab, India died following consumption of a birthday cake, with her entire family falling ill from the product. Testing later revealed that the cake contained an excessive amount of saccharin, a synthetic sweetener.

Saccharin is used in a range of products in both the UK and EU. While at high levels it may be dangerous, at ordinary levels the sweetener is widespread.

Saccharin, also known as E 954, is one of the oldest artificial sweeteners, discovered at John Hopkins University in 1879. The sweetener that is between 300 and 400 times sweeter than sugar, but has no calories. It is used in a range of products including jams, jellies, chewing gum, salad dressings, canned fruit, dessert toppings and baked goods.  

Effects of saccharin consumption

In the past, the consumption of saccharin has been linked to negative health effects. A 2019 study, which tested the effects of saccharin consumption on rats, suggested that the sweetener can increase body weight, due to the fact that sweetness, when not accompanied by calories, leads to, the study suggested, ‘ambiguous psychobiological signals’, resulting in overeating.

The study also suggested that consumption of saccharin could lead to impaired kidney and liver function, as it can harm biochemical markers in the liver and kidneys.  

The study concluded by suggested that the sweetener is unsafe to include in the diet.

Saccharin in the EU

Like all food additives in the EU, saccharin must be authorised by risk managers before being able to be used in foods.

Saccharin is an approved additive in the EU under Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008. While its use is approved for a range of goods, including breakfast cereals, wafers and alcohol-free beer, under this regulation saccharin cannot be used in cakes or bakery goods in the EU.

However, its use must be continually reassessed, under the process for reevaluation set out under Regulation (EU) No 257/2010.

Saccharin in the UK

Much as in the EU, all food additives in the UK are subject to strict risk assessments before being added to products. Products are kept under strict review by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the level of safety it assigns to it could change any time.

However, as of 26 April, an FSA spokesperson told FoodNavigator, it “has no information of any incidents in regard to negative health effects relating to saccharine or sweeteners generally and no deaths.”

Much like in the EU, saccharin is regulated by Regulation (EC) No 1333/2008, which remains in place in the UK after Brexit.

Sourced From: Medicina (Kaunas)
'Long-Term Saccharin Consumption and Increased Risk of Obesity, Diabetes, Hepatic Dysfunction, and Renal Impairment in Rats'
Published on: 9 October 2019
Doi: https://doi.org/10.3390/medicina55100681
Authors: O. H. Azeez, S. Y. Alkass, and D. S. Persike

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