WASHINGTON, DC – Parents confused by the laundry list of sweeteners on food and beverage ingredient labels just got a helping hand from the Sugar Association, which released a “sweetener cheat sheet” this weekend at a large gathering of Washington, DC-area mothers.

The list identifies 23 common artificial or man-made sweeteners used in the U.S. market and provides a brief explanation for each.

Andy Briscoe, president and CEO of the Sugar Association, says he hopes this will make it easier for parents to navigate and better understand ingredient labels, “which sometimes seem like they are written in hieroglyphics.”

He pointed to a recent poll conducted by Harris Interactive to prove the point. Research found more than half of parents in the United States say they try to avoid artificial sweeteners, yet few can actually identify man-made and chemical artificial sweeteners commonly used in products.

For example, neotame is only recognized by 1 percent of parents. According to the Sugar Association’s sweetener list:

“Neotame is between 7,000 and 13,000 times sweeter than sugar. By adding 3-dimethylbutyl (a chemical the Environmental Protection Agency lists as hazardous) to aspartame, scientists were able to drastically increase the sweetening power of the additive. It is 30 times sweeter than its cousin, aspartame, so only a tiny amount is needed. Since the FDA does not require labels to include ingredients that comprise less than 1 percent of the product, it’s possible that neotame could be used in foods without having to be listed on the label. It might also be camouflaged under ‘natural flavors.’”

Briscoe is hopeful that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will soon enact labeling guidelines that will essentially provide consumers a cheat sheet right on the package. The Sugar Association petitioned the FDA five years ago to clearly label man-made, artificial sweeteners on the front of packages – a plan modeled after Canada’s labeling regulations.

In addition to handing out the list of sweeteners, the Sugar Association also spent hours educating more than 200 mothers who attended Saturday’s meeting hosted by the Northern Virginia Parents of Multiples.

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