THE BITTER BATTLE OVER SWEETENERS

 

 

The lobbyists for the Wall Street and the Auto manufacturers are in the news but behind the scene are the lobbyists for sugar and various sweeteners.

 

Take Stevia, for example, a sweetener from the plant S. rebaudiana grown in South America. The leaves of the stevia plant have 30–45 times the sweetness of sucrose. Rebiana is the trade name for a zero-calorie sweetener containing mainly the steviol glycoside rebaudioside A (reb-A),extracted from stevia. Truvia is the consumer brand for a sweetener made of erythritol and Rebiana marketed by Cargill and developed jointly with The Coca-Cola Company.In December 2008, the United States Food and Drug Administration permitted Rebiana-based sweeteners as food additives. PureVia is the PepsiCo and Merisant brand of reb-A. It has been used in other countries for years but has been successfully kept off the American market until now by lobbyists for sugar and other popular sweeteners. Its selling point now is that it is “natural”. Its sales barrier is that it is slower to release the sweet taste and more expensive than the others on the market.

 

I don’t have the space in this blog to give you all the pros and cons of the various sweeteners that I have listed them in the Seventh Edition of A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives just published by Three Rivers/Crown but here is some information from the book that may help you make more knowledgeable decisions.

 

INTENSE SWEETENERS. They are nonnutritive sweeteners, also referred to as low-calories sweeteners are artificial sweeteners. Intense sweeteners in most foods give you a calorie savings of about 16 calories per teaspoon (the calories of a teaspoon of sugar) Examples in the category include:

 

  • Aspartame. Trade names include NutraSweet, Equal, NatraTaste and SugarTwin. A compound prepared from aspartic acid and phenylalanine. The FDA arranged for an independent panel in the early seventies which concluded that the evidence did not support the charge that aspartame might kill clusters of brain cells or cause other damage. However, persons with the phenylketonuria, or PKU, must avoid it.One prominent scientist caused a stir when he reported it might cause brain tumors in babies.  Despite continuing warning by some scientists, The FDA has declared it GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has also found it safe.

 

  • Saccharin. Trade name: Sweet n’ Low, SugarTwin. Used for more than 100 years in the United States, it is produced from a substance that occurs in grapes and is between three hundred and five hundred times sweeter than table sugar. Some government and hospital studies have linked it to bladder cancer but the lobbyists managed to keep it on the market.

 

 

  • Acesulfame K. Sweet On, Ace K. The “K” is the symbol for potassium. Two hundred times sweeter than sugar, it is not digested by the body but instead is eliminated through the urine. There were worries that the substance causes tumors in animals but the FDA said that any tumors that appeared were routinely expected and not due to the sweetener. Acesulfame K has been approved in 20 countries.

 

Then there are the:

  • Polyols. Sugar alcohols . Among them are: Erythritol, isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, polyglycitol (usually listed as HSH, for “hydrogenated starch hydrolysates”), sorbitol, and xylitol. They are sucrose and fructose than to the super-sweet artificial sweeteners, but they supply fewer calories than sucrose and the other sugars because they aren’t completely absorbed in the digestive tract. They don’t affect blood-sugar levels as much as sucrose, a real advantage for people with diabetes, and they don’t contribute to tooth decay, so they’re the main sweetener in most varieties of sugarless gum. They can give you diarrhea and bloating, and there is a controversy about whether they raise blood sugar which the manufacturers claim they don’t and some diabetes specialists claim they do.

 

HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP (HFCS)  has been blamed by consumer groups for causing obesity in children and adults. It is about one and a half times sweeter than sugar. It does have calories. Overweight and obese individuals consuming fructose-sweetened beverages also showed signs of increased levels of lipids in the blood (dyslipidemia), according to findings published in April in the Journal of Clinical Investigation using HFCS to a level of desired sweetness could affect their habits for a lifetime.

 

SUGAR.The Sugar Association (SA) lobbyists are now in full gears, out to stop the decline in the use of sugar, “the most natural sweetener” and apparently their efforts are paying off.  The SA data reveals an estimated increase in sugar deliveries for domestic use in 2005-2006, which follows an almost continuous decline since 1976.

“Needless to say, we feel consumers have sweetener overload. Unlike twenty years ago when you could count sweetening ingredients on one hand, now there are 26 sweeteners being used in foods in the U.S. today. And consumers are beginning to return to what they feel is proven, safe and all natural – sugar,” said Andy Briscoe, president of the Sugar Association.

“When consumers find out that sugar has just 15 calories in a teaspoon, they question the value of artificial and other man-made sweeteners in today’s marketplace,” he added.

Market analysts at Freedonia, who follow the food industry, report the sweetener market is set to grow at around 8.3 per cent year on year until 2008, with sales rising from a small base of $81million in 1998 to $189 million in 2008.

A recent report from Business Communications (BCC) predicts that although sugar alcohols and HIS (high intensity sweeteners) are still relatively new and unexplored sweeteners in the $10.92 billion global sweetener market, their presence in the market is growing rapidly. Total global sugar alcohol production was estimated at 836,905 tons, up 2.2 percent over last year. US consumption of sugar alcohols was estimated at 376,640 tons, nearly 79 percent of the total production of these sweeteners. In the next five years consumption of sugar alcohols and HIS is slated to rise as much as 15 percent as new

Whom do you believe? Those promoting Intense Sweeteners, semi-organic sweeteners? Sugar promoters?

We have all seen our dinning companions stuff themselves with fattening and carbohydrate ladened food and then at the end of the meal, open a little packet of sweetener for their coffee or tea and feel they haven’t overeaten. It is up to you which  you choose but remember— moderation is the  best weapon in the battle of sweeteners!

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HOW SAFE IS YOUR SUPERMARKET FOOD?

  

When you select a pre-made sandwich or buy a bottle of sauce or a package of nuts do you know what you are really buying?

 

I have been accused of making consumer’s paranoid with my Seventh Edition of A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives (Three Rivers/ Crown). I have listed chemicals made from known cancer-causing and brain toxic substances. Most of the thousands of other chemicals are added safely as preservatives and flavorings but who is watching the ones that are not? The FDA now allows the manufacturers themselves to self-affirm their additives as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe).

 

The legitimate food producers do everything they can to protect their consumers’ faithfulness and safety. Kraft Foods was recently praised by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for showing how the country’s food safety systems should work, after it discovered a salmonella outbreak in pistachios processed by one of its suppliers. The discovery, which was uncovered during what the company called routine third party testing that it was not legally required to undertake, led central-California-based processor Setton Farms to voluntarily recall its 2008 pistachio crop due to an unrelated salmonella contamination.

 

“This recall was not triggered because of an outbreak, in contrast to the peanut butter,” FDA associate commissioner for foods David Acheson told reporters.

 

The Grocery Manufacturing Association has suggested requiring all food manufacturers to adopt and update food safety plans so that they can be made available to the FDA.

 

To step up traceability, the GMA also suggested mandatory documentation by importers on the steps being used to police foreign suppliers, while also granting the FDA mandatory recall authority. Can you believe such protection does not exist in the US?

 

To back this increased scrutiny, the GMA said it also believed US Congress should increase the spending budget of the FDA to at least $900 million as part of attempts to ‘rebuild’ its scientific capacity.

 

While our guardian agencies, such as the FDA, are underfunded and overwhelmed, the British guardians are doing a better job.  A recently established food fraud division will support local authorities to take swift action to stop illegal activity as well as helping them uncover cases where the consumer has been misled, under the aegis of the UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA).The FSA defines food fraud as being committed when “food is deliberately placed on the market, for financial gain, with the intention of deceiving the consumer”.

 

This may take the form of selling products unfit for human consumption, such as those of unknown origin or which are past their sell-by-date; or misrepresenting food in some way, for example by substituting cheaper alternatives or making misleading statements about its source.

 

It is estimated the fraudulent food market in the UK is worth seven billion pounds a year—accounting for around 10 percent of the entire market. The FSA, for example, found sandwiches that did not contain cheese, but a non-dairy substitute “cheese analogue” which costs about half the wholesale price of real cheese. They also found “organic food” that was not really organic and Basmati Rice mixed with unrevealed less expensive rice.

 

Market researchers have found that that Americans have less and less confidence in supermarket safety, primarily in foods that need a lot of handling such as packaged sandwiches and rotisserie chicken.

 

I bought a package of store brand flour last year that was loaded with chlorine. The store apologized and gave me a coupon for another package of flour but I haven’t bought the store brand since. Have you experienced supermarket problems? Do you support paying more taxes to make a stronger FDA?