Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Big Sugar' tries to scare us away from its new rival: Splenda

The Union Leader has an interesting commentary on Splenda and the Sugar Industry:

'Big Sugar' tries to scare us away from its new rival: Splenda

Guest Commentary

THE AMERICAN sugar industry isn't acting very sweetly. Witness its attack on the non-caloric sweetener called sucralose, brand-named Splenda. While Big Sugar has yet to roll out its advertising campaign, you can go to a Web site dedicated to attacking the sweetener that opens with the image of a little girl eyeing a plate of chocolate chip cookies not with delight but abject terror.

All of which is rather ironic coming from the makers of a product that rots teeth, contributes to the obesity epidemic and makes life tough on diabetics.

Americans eat about 61 pounds of sugar and 79 pounds of corn sweeteners annually, contributing to an annual total of 142 pounds of caloric sweeteners. These sweeteners add about 700 calories to our diet each day. Since the government's recommended energy allowance is 2,200 calories for women and 2,900 for men, added sugars comprise a third to a fourth of all the calories we consume.

Naturally, Big Sugar (henceforth "BS") has funded studies asserting sugar doesn't contribute to our having become One Nation, Overweight. But you can believe BS, or you can believe your pocket calculator.

Yet BS says Splenda, marketed by Johnson & Johnson, is the bad guy! Among the charges on its anti-Splenda Web site:

# It's "fiction" that "Splenda has been thoroughly tested." Is that why FDA Consumer Magazine pointed out that Splenda was approved in 1998 only after the FDA reviewed "more than 110 animal and human safety studies conducted over 20 years?" Is that why 78 other countries have approved the product?

# Splenda contains chlorine. Indeed, "Splenda is found in nearly 3,500 food products and amazingly none of them say the product contains chlorine." Gasp! Never mind that that chlorine is a natural element and is in everything from table salt (sodium chloride) to most North American tap water.

# "None of the regulatory agencies or scientific review bodies that have confirmed the safety of sucralose require any warning information to be placed on the labels of products sweetened with sucralose." Well, duh! See above. But while we're on the subject, how about a warning label for sugar? In the aforementioned FDA article nutrition expert Adam Drewnowski said, "Anything that can help people cut back on calories is good," and studies, some of which he has conducted, "show that sugar substitutes can help certain people maintain a weight loss."

# "The truth is that Splenda is not natural and does not taste like sugar." In fact, BS has just filed suit on this very issue. If you really want natural sugar, buy a piece of sugar cane and gnaw on it. As it happens, Splenda is made from sugar just as sugar is made from cane and beets. Nowhere does Splenda advertising claim it's "natural;" rather, the label on the Splenda-sweetened beverage I'm drinking as I write this is "nonnutritive sweetener" — fancy-pants terminology for "no calories." And do we really need a judge or jury to decide for us how something tastes?

Read the rest here.

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