Citing new study, Splenda wants CSPI to drop 'avoid' rating of sucralose

Dive Brief:

  • Splenda is contesting the Center for Science in the Public Interest's "avoid" rating of the artificial sweetener sucralose after the European Food Safety Authority said the ingredient is safe and does not cause cancer, according to a company release. Splenda also noted that the Food and Drug Administration has concluded that sucralose is safe for all consumers, including women who are pregnant or nursing.
  • The EFSA dismissed a study conducted by the Ramazzini Institute — which found in 2016 that sucralose caused leukemia and blood related cancers in male mice — because it was poorly designed.
  • CSPI, however, holds that the EFSA has been overly dismissive of findings before, and "is notorious for having industry-friendly opinions and conflicts of interest on its panels."

Dive Insight:

Today's consumer is hyper-aware of the ingredients in their food and beverages, and especially suspicious of two things: sugar and artificial sweeteners. 

While manufacturers can reformulate their products to use less sugar, either by restructuring the sugar molecule like Nestle or simply committing to use less of it like Danone, artificial sweetener makers are in hot water. 

Consumer fear of chemicals and all things artificial are driving sales of natural sweeteners like stevia, monkfruit and dates — leaving once-staple substitutes like aspartame and sucralose to fall by the wayside. 

Much of this rejection stems from consumers' growing distaste for the soda industry — and diet sodas in particular. The beverages, which were traditionally marketed as weight loss tools, have been found to actually promote weight gain, according to a study from Harvard University. 

After observing low-calorie sweetener consumers for 10 years, researchers found that they had larger waist circumferences and greater abdominal obesity than non-users. Research like this, as well as a shifting interest from diets to more holistic health and nutrition habits, has caused diet soda consumption to plunge by more than 27%. The category has dropped from nearly 30% of all carbonated beverages by volume sold in the U.S. to about 25%.

Because of these growing consumer trends, and the artificial sweetener category's association with the soda industry, it's unlikely that a green light from CSPI will bring ingredients like Splenda back to their former glory. Still, it will be interesting to see the tactics artificial sweetener makers use to try and win back consumer favor.

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Filed Under: Ingredients Food Safety
Top image credit: Mike Mozart