Tuesday, July 5, 2011


The labeling rules are framed to make the ingredients used in a product known to discerning consumers so that informed choices are made during the shopping trip. There are different requirements in different countries but universally label information must reveal some of the nutrients, ingredients in descending order (possibly by percentage), negative aspects like allergens, trans fats etc. Also food regulations stipulate that additives used must be from the permissible list while proprietary products can use safety cleared substances or GRAS additives after getting permission from competent authorities. Artificial sweeteners are not additives that are permitted in all food products but can be used in health oriented foods at levels prescribed in the statute books. However keeping in view the prevalent obesity epidemic in many countries, main stream industry is increasingly using artificial sweeteners along with sugar for reducing the calorie levels to some extent. Though presence of these sweeteners is declared in the ingredients list, many consumers miss this information resulting in their unintended consumption. It is a dilemma food safety agencies face, with sugar manufacturers clamoring for more prominent declaration on the label that will attract consumer attention. It is interesting to watch future developments on this vexed issue.

"If you're the sort of grocery shopper who likes to avoid artificial sweeteners, you may want to bring along a magnifying glass on your next trip to the supermarket. That's because lots of products you wouldn't expect are secretly sweetened with aspartame, sucralose and other chemical sugar-replacers. And this trend, underway for some time, may only accelerate because of recent negative attention heaped on sugar. In a recent NYT Magazine story, science writer Gary Taubes suggested that sugar (a catch-all term that also includes high fructose corn syrup and other caloric sweeteners) may be the main culprit in causing obesity and diabetes. And last week the government issued strict (yet voluntary) guidelines on foods that can be marketed to kids, setting a limit of no more than 13 grams of added sugar per serving.The Sugar Association, which represents growers and producers of old fashioned sugar, has been nervously watching the stealth sweetener trend for some time and has petitioned the FDA to require food manufacturers to clearly note on the front of packages their use of artificial sweeteners. But it doesn't appear that the FDA considers this to be a pressing issue. The group's initial petition was filed five years ago. It's not hard to see the benefits of a clearly visible label for many shoppes. The presence of hidden sweeteners shows up in products that don't appear to be 'lite' or 'low calorie' and don't even reveal hints like 'reduced sugar.' Many of them would like you to think that they're quite healthy, such as Pepsi's (PEP) Quaker High Fiber Instant Oatmeal, sweetened with sugar and the chemical sucralose, which is so buried in the ingredient list that many people probably wouldn't notice it even if they were looking:"

While reducing sucrose in food products is definitely a good thing, use of artificial sweeteners in hundreds of main stream products can be worrisome also because of the potential for exceeding the ADI levels cumulatively through these foods. Probably this issue needs in-depth look by the food safety agencies and if necessary regulatory steps must be put in place to control the use of non-sugar sweeteners indiscriminately by the food industry. It must be borne in mind that what effects those products containing different sweeteners will have on human health is some thing not known to day. Individually ADI figures have been worked out for most of the synthetic sweeteners but data on the effect of combinations of various such sweeteners on human body are yet to be generated. With safety questions raised about many of the chemical sweeteners, it is better that there are appropriate restrictions regarding their use in at least some of the staple food products consumed frequently in high quantities every day.


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