Pending FDA Petition Could Stop Confusion

WASHINGTON, DC – More than half (52 percent) of the parents in the United States try to avoid artificial sweeteners, yet few can actually identify common chemical sweeteners used by food manufacturers, found a new Harris Interactive poll released today.

When shown the ingredient label from a common drink given to dehydrated infants, only four percent of those surveyed could identify the four sweeteners used in the product. And one-in-seven (13 percent) couldn’t identify any of the sweeteners, which included fructose, dextrose, sucralose and acesulfame potassium.
This is not surprising considering only five percent of parents said they were familiar with the chemical artificial sweetener acesulfame potassium, a common ingredient that is sometimes listed on ingredient labels as acesulfame k.

The survey found similarly low name recognition for other common sweeteners. Only one percent have heard of neotame, six percent isomalt, and 25 percent maltose. Name recognition was higher among branded sweeteners – Equal, Sweet N Low, and Splenda – but those figures dropped by as much as half when the generic names of these products – saccharin, aspartame, and sucralose – were used.

“What’s the use of including a laundry list of ingredients on food labels if people have no clue what those ingredients are or that many have average daily intake limits established by FDA,” asked Andy Briscoe, CEO of the Sugar Association. “We know people read food labels and depend on them to make smart choices, so why wouldn’t
we make those labels easier for consumers to use?”

The Sugar Association hopes to do just that. It has petitioned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to follow Canada’s lead and set food label guidance that clearly identifies which ingredients are artificial sweeteners and how much of each are found in a product.

The Sugar Association’s petition has been pending with the FDA for nearly five years, but Briscoe is hopeful the new Harris Interactive study will bring new information to the table for discussion and help break the logjam.

“Eighty-seven percent of American parents say the sweetener used in a product is at least somewhat important to them,” he noted. “Consumers have a right to know what they are feeding their families, and the current labeling standards aren’t working.”

Briscoe further explained that with more and more food manufacturers using a “multiple-sweeteners cocktail approach” of mixing numerous natural and artificial ingredients to sweeten foods, and with new sweeteners being invented every day, “it has never been more important for the FDA to act in the consumers’ interest.”

The Harris Interactive poll was commissioned by the Sugar Association and was conducted Jan. 6-12 among 1,268 parents.

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