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[Article] How Sweet It Is: All About Sugar Substitutes


How Sweet It Is: All About Sugar Substitutes
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From the 19 May 2014 FDA article

High-intensity sweeteners

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Whether it’s to cut down on the number of calories they consume or any of a variety of other reasons, some people use sugar substitutes – also called high-intensity sweeteners – to sweeten and add flavor to their foods. They can be used alone to sweeten foods and beverages such as iced tea or coffee, or as an ingredient in other products. There are a number of sugar substitutes on the market from which to choose.

“Sugar substitutes are called ‘high-intensity’ because small amounts pack a large punch when it comes to sweetness,” says Captain Andrew Zajac, U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS), director of the Division of Petition Review at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

According to Zajac, unlike sweeteners such as sugar, honey, or molasses, high-intensity sweeteners add few or no calories to the foods they flavor. Also, high-intensity sweeteners generally do not raise blood sugar levels.

The FDA has approved a new high-intensity sweetener called advantame.

Advantame—which does not yet have a brand name (such as Sweet’N Low, a brand name for saccharin, or Equal, a brand name for aspartame)—has been approved as a new food additive for use as a sweetener and flavor enhancer in foods, except meat and poultry.

Examples of uses for which advantame has been approved include baked goods, non-alcoholic beverages (including soft drinks), chewing gum, confections and frostings, frozen desserts, gelatins and puddings, jams and jellies, processed fruits and fruit juices, toppings, and syrups.

How Do You Know It’s Safe?

FDA is required by law to review all new food additives for safety before they can go on the market. The process begins when a company submits a food additive petition to FDA seeking approval. One exception is for substances “generally recognized as safe,” or GRAS, because those substances are generally recognized by qualified experts as safe under the conditions of intended use and are exempt from the food additive approval process.

Zajac explains that the agency’s scientists thoroughly review all the scientific evidence submitted by a company to ensure the product is safe for the intended use.

“In determining the safety of advantame, FDA reviewed data from 37 animal and human studies designed to identify possible toxic (harmful) effects, including effects on the immune, reproductive and developmental, and nervous systems,” Zajac says.

Advantame is chemically related to aspartame, and certain individuals should avoid or restrict the use of aspartame. To that end, FDA evaluated whether the same individuals should avoid or restrict advantame, as well.

People who have phenylketonuria (PKU), a rare genetic disorder, have a difficult time metabolizing phenylalanine, a component of both aspartame and advantame. Newborns are tested for PKU using a common “heel-prick” test before they leave the hospital.

Foods containing aspartame must bear an information statement for people with PKU alerting them about the presence of phenylalanine. But advantame is much sweeter than aspartame, so only a very small amount needs to be used to reach the same level of sweetness. As a result, foods containing advantame do not need to bear that statement.

Five Already on the Market

The last high-intensity sweetener approved by FDA was Neotame (brand name Newtame) in 2002. The other four on the market, and are:

  • Saccharin, was first discovered and used in 1879, before the current food additive approval process came into effect in 1958. Brand names include Sweet‘N Low
  • Aspartame, first approved for use in 1981. Brand names include Equal
  • Acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), first approved for use in 1988. Brand names include Sweet One
  • Sucralose, first approved for use in 1998. Brand name is Splenda

In addition to the six high-intensity sweeteners that are FDA-approved as food additives, the agency has received and has not questioned GRAS notices for two types of plant/fruit based high-intensity sweeteners: certain steviol glycosides obtained from the leaves of the stevia plant (Stevia rebaudiana (Bertoni) Bertoni) and extracts obtained from Siraitia grosvenorii Swingle fruit, also known as Luo Han Guo or monk fruit.

While these high-intensity sweeteners are considered safe for their intended uses, certain individuals may have a particular sensitivity or adverse reaction to any food substance. Consumers should share with their health care provider any concerns they have about a negative food reaction.

In addition, FDA encourages consumers to report any adverse events through MedWatch: FDA’s safety information and adverse event reporting program.

This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

June 28, 2014 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Pew Report] Fixing the Oversight of Chemicals Added to Our Food

From the 7 November 2013 report summary

Overview

From 2010 to 2013, The Pew Charitable Trusts conducted a comprehensive assessment of the federal food additives regulatory program. Relying on a transparent process that engaged stakeholders, Pew examined food additive issues in partnership with the food industry, the public interest community, and the federal government, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA. We held five expert workshops and published six reports in peer-reviewed journals. This report summarizes our findings and provides recommendations to address the problems that we identified.

With more than 10,000 additives allowed in food, Pew’s research found that the FDA regulatory system is plagued with systemic problems, which prevent the agency from ensuring that their use is safe. The cause of this breakdown in our food safety regulatory process is an outdated law with two significant problems:

First, the law contains an exemption intended for common food ingredients; manufacturers have used this exception to go to market without agency review on the grounds that the additive used is “generally recognized as safe,” or GRAS, in regulatory parlance. FDA has interpreted the law as imposing no obligation on firms to tell the agency of any GRAS decisions. As a result, companies have determined that an estimated 1,000 chemicals are generally recognized as safe and have used them without notifying the agency. The firms usually use their own employees, consultants, or experts whom they select and pay to make the safety decision with no disclosure or apparent efforts to minimize the inherent conflicts of interest.

Second, the law does not give FDA the authority it needs to efficiently obtain the information necessary to identify chemicals of concern that are already on the market; set priorities to reassess these chemicals; and then complete a review of their safety. Moreover, the agency has not been given the resources it needs to effectively implement the original 1958 law. As a result, FDA has not reevaluated the safety of many chemicals originally approved decades ago, generally rechecking safety only when requested by a company to do so, or when presented with allegations of serious adverse health effects.


What FDA says today about the safety of additives

“It’s perhaps a time to look at what the legal framework looks like and what opportunities there are now to ask and answer questions in new ways because of advances in science and technology.”

— FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, (Reuters, May 2013)

“We’re not driven by a sense that there is a pressing public health emergency. But there are decisions being made based on data that we don’t have access to, and that creates a question about the basis on which those decisions are made.”

— FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods Michael Taylor, (Associated Press, March 2013)

“FDA plans to issue guidance to industry on meeting the GRAS criteria established under the Act.”

— FDA spokeswoman Theresa Eisenman, (USA Today, August 2013)


To remedy these problems, Pew’s report recommends that Congress update the Food Additives Amendment of 1958 to ensure that FDA:

  • Approves the first use of all new chemicals added to food.
  • Reviews new uses or changes to existing uses of previously approved additives.
  • Streamlines its decision-making process so it is timely and efficient.
  • Upgrades its science to determine safety.
  • Uses the scientific tools and data it needs to set priorities to reassess the safety of chemicals already allowed in food and to take action where necessary.

– See more at: http://www.pewhealth.org/reports-analysis/reports/fixing-the-oversight-of-chemicals-added-to-our-food-85899518122#sthash.cQHyqL0p.dpuf

 

December 4, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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