Big Corporations: Whose Interests Are At Heart?

After over 20 years informing the public consumer about the dangers of aspartame, I have concluded that many big businesses only have your money in mind. Unfortunately, your health and wellness isn't always their primary goal, so it is important to learn about the companies that play such influential roles in your lives and the lives of your young children. After all, many of these corporations have reputable backgrounds, and our hope is when they realize they may have jeopardized the health of their customers, they will repair any damage done.

"While there are a lot of industry-sponsored safety studies on these (diet sweetener) substances, I don't believe there is enough independent research to tell us whether we should be using them in moderation or at all," said Dr. Jeanette Newton Keith, a gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at The University of Chicago's Pritzker School of Medicine.

Splenda® is now the frontrunner in the sweetener competition because its manufacturer, McNeil Nutritionals, subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, has aggressively marketed the new sweetener since its FDA approval in 1998. By 2003, Splenda had quickly grown to be included in over 3,000 products worldwide.

One of Splenda's chief marketing points over aspartame is its taste. "Splenda is made out of sugar," claims Dr Pepper®/Seven Up®/ representatives. "It doesn't have the stigma of an aftertaste that some other artificial sweeteners have." This claim is now being challenged in American courts as misleading the consumer.

Aspartame has been the low-calorie sweetener of choice for soft drink makers since 1981 when saccharin was falsely labeled a carcinogen. As I have previously mentioned in numerous articles, those saccharin experiments were formally discredited in the 1990s when it was revealed the lab rats were forced to drink the equivalent of 600 to 800 cans of diet soda with saccharin a day, from birth until death. And, I discovered through my research that saccharin was blended with cyclamate in the 1960 cancer studies. But it was too late for saccharin by then. Aspartame's soft drink formula, the million dollar advertising campaigns, and consumer tastes were settling upon aspartame. They managed to hold the market until Splenda broke their monopoly at the turn of the new millennium.

So, let's learn about these sweetener giants.

MCNEIL NUTRITIONALS /TATE & LYLE (Manufacturer and Developer of Splenda, respectively)

McNeil Specialty Products Company (MSPC), a wholly owned subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, along with Tate & Lyle PLC, a world leader in sweeteners and starches, all share responsibility for developing and manufacturing sucralose for commercial use. Sucralose is the first product from McNeil Specialty whose mission is "to develop and market innovative food ingredients that help consumers control, maintain and improve their health."

Internationally, McNeil Specialty markets sucralose in the United States, Canada, Latin America, the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, and the Middle East. Tate & Lyle markets sucralose in Africa, Asia, Europe and Canada. Internationally, McNeil Specialty markets sucralose under the name SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener. SPLENDA® is a registered trademark of McNeil Specialty Products Company.

In the midst of the continued controversy over aspartame, many pharmaceutical and health food manufacturers - Pro Lab, Twin Lab and Ross Products, makers of Pedialyte®, for example - have switched to using sucralose in their manufactured products.

McNeil Nutritionals markets nutritional products and dietary alternatives including cholesterol-lowering foods and supplements, products for lactose intolerance, and calcium supplements. Some of their product websites are:

Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical, Inc., provides prescription drugs in the following categories:
  • Analgesics
  • Anti-infectives
  • Anti-epileptics
  • Urology
  • Wound healing

The company's line of women's health products includes:

  • Contraceptive patches
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Diaphragms and vaginal therapeutics

More of their product websites are:


OrthoNeutrogena, a Division of Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceuticals, Inc. markets skin and hair care products recommended, used, and prescribed by many dermatologists. OrthoNeutrogena dermatology prescription products include:


Some of their product websites are:


JOHNSON & JOHNSON (Mother Company of McNeil Specialty Products and Tate & Lyle)

In 1876, unclean cotton collected from sweeping the floors of textile mills was used for surgical dressings, and surgeons operated on their patients wearing street clothes.

Realizing what was happening, Robert Wood Johnson searched for a more sanitary way to help people, so he joined his two brothers, James Wood and Edward Mead Johnson, who had already formed a partnership in 1885. Operations began in New Brunswick, New Jersey, in 1886 with fourteen employees on the fourth floor of a small building, once a wallpaper factory. In 1887, the company was incorporated as Johnson & Johnson, and the brothers entered the surgical dressings industry.

Johnson & Johnson's history began with the discoveries of Sir Joseph Lister, a noted English surgeon who identified airborne germs as a source of infection in the operating room. He called them the "invisible assassins." Medical science was beginning to understand, however poorly, the need for greater care in protecting the wound area. Yet, this concept of countless living organisms, unseen and deadly, remained beyond the understanding of many surgeons in the nineteenth century who were doubtful or even condescending of Lister's work.

Robert Johnson heard Lister speak in 1876 and for years afterward, nurtured the idea of a practical application of Lister's teachings. What he had in mind was a new type of surgical dressing, ready-made, sterile, wrapped and sealed in individual packages and suitable for instant use without the risk of contamination.

Prior to Lister's discoveries, the postoperative mortality rate was as high as ninety percent in some hospitals. Stubbornly, surgeons could not bring themselves to believe they were contaminating their own patients by operating ungloved with unsterilized instruments.

The first products the Johnson brothers marketed were an improved medicinal bandage containing medicinal compounds mixed in an adhesive. Then they quickly developed a revolutionary surgical dressing and placed it on the market. Recognizing the critical need for improved antiseptic surgical procedures, the company designed soft, absorbent cotton and gauze dressing that could be mass-produced and shipped in quantity to hospitals and to every crossroads physician and druggist.

Johnson & Johnson broadly promoted their antiseptic surgical procedures. In 1888, the Company published a book, "Modern Methods of Antiseptic Wound Treatment," which for many years remained the standard text on antiseptic practices.

Today, Johnson & Johnson has become a worldwide network of over 200 companies, marketing health care products to more than 175 countries. The companies' more than 109,500 employees produce products that supply a broad segment of medical needs, ranging from baby care, first aid and hospital products to prescription pharmaceuticals, diagnostics and products relating to family planning, dermatology and feminine hygiene. But now - they market a diet sweetener made with industrial-grade chlorine.

MONSANTO (Original Creator of NutraSweet®/Equal®)
Monsanto Chemical Company - the company that first brought us saccharin and then aspartame in the form of NutraSweet and Equal.

Monsanto Chemical Company recently applied to the FDA for commercial approval of genetically engineered wheat. This will have far-reaching effects on farmers, consumers, and the environment. I have great concerns with genetically engineered (GMO) grains products, such as:

  • Organic farmers may face genetic cross-contamination
  • Conventional farmers may lose the freedom to save their seed, as
  • Monsanto will have the right to enforce its patents
  • Farmers may also loose overseas markets because genetically engineered grains aren't accepted in most foreign countries
  • Prices will probably fall, as have already occurred with corn

Monsanto's background is most attention grabbing and diverse. Monsanto Chemical Company is a leading provider of agricultural products and incorporated "solutions" for farmers. They make Roundup®, the world's best-selling herbicide, as well as other herbicides. Monsanto produces leading seed brands, including DEKALB® and Asgrow®, and they provide farmers and other seed companies with biotechnology traits for insect protection and herbicide tolerance. They also are responsible for the creation and distribution of the Bovine Growth Hormone (BST), and have obvious deep-rooted connections to the soft drink industry through the manufacturing of both saccharin and NutraSweet.
Monsanto Chemical Works opened its doors in St. Louis in 1901. In 2001, Monsanto celebrated its 100th anniversary as a powerful business enterprise.

After thirty years in the pharmaceutical industry, John Francis Queeny, still an employee of Meyer Brothers Drug Company, sank his savings and monies borrowed from a Chicago soft drink supplier, into a new company to produce products for the food and pharmaceutical industries. He named the company after his wife, whose maiden name was Olga Monsanto. The corporate papers were filed on Nov. 29, 1901.

In 1902, Monsanto gained its reputation manufacturing saccharin, the company's first product. In 1903 to 1905, their entire saccharin output was shipped to the growing soft drink company in Georgia called Coca-Cola®. In 1904, Monsanto introduced caffeine and vanillin as products for the escalating soft drink industry. Initially, vanillin was produced by extracting a chemical from cloves that were purchased from the Sultan of Zanzibar who insisted that the leftover spices be returned to him. Cloves had an important religious significance in the cremation of bodies, so there was importance in shipping them back to Zanzibar instead of disposing of them as waste in the United States.

By 1915, Monsanto's sales surpassed the one million dollar mark. Two years later, the company began the production of aspirin. Monsanto remained the largest U.S. producer of aspirin until the 1980s.

In 1917, the U.S. government filed suit over the safety of saccharin. Filed at Monsanto's request as a test case, the suit was dismissed in 1925, ending the government's unsuccessful attempts then to prove saccharin harmful. In 1981, saccharin was again questioned as a carcinogen, but no conclusive scientific proof was ever presented. In 2001, the cancer warning was removed from saccharin products as saccharin was shown, once again, to be safe for human consumption.

In 1985, Monsanto, taking the company deeper into pharmaceuticals and the sweetener industry, purchased G.D. SEARLE & CO. Donald Rumsfeld followed Searle as CEO and President of Searle between 1977 and 1985. He played an instrumental role in the acquisition of G.D. Searle & Company by Monsanto. Now NutraSweet, saccharin's competitor, was owned and marketed by the same company - Monsanto.

World War II brought Monsanto and the American government closer together as Monsanto became involved in research on uranium for the Manhattan Project, which led to the first nuclear bombs. Later, Monsanto operated the Mound (Ohio) Laboratory as a nuclear facility for the Federal government until the late 1980s, and their Dayton Laboratory was used as a research facility for nuclear-based and other government-funded projects.

Monsanto was in the petroleum business by 1955, having acquired Lion Oil primarily to provide themselves petrochemical raw materials. Lion Oil also put the company into the fertilizer business, and brought to Monsanto hydrocarbon technology, oil and gas reserves, and a retail gasoline business. The refinery and service stations were sold in 1972.

In 1977, Monsanto established a joint petrochemical venture with Conoco Oil Company at the Chocolate Bayou plant. They were eventually bought out and the money from the acquisition fueled their drive to acquire a pharmaceutical company.

At this time, G.D. Searle & Co. had succeeded in getting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to finally approve NutraSweet (aspartame) for the second time, and prepared to purchase Monsanto in 1985. When Monsanto sold its sweetener business in 2000, including the NutraSweet brand sweetener, it brought Monsanto $440 million.

By 1998, Monsanto started buying seed companies and genetic laboratories. In December 1999, Monsanto and Pharmacia & Upjohn announced plans to merge the two companies. Monsanto and Pharmacia & Upjohn completed their merger on March 31 naming the new company the Pharmacia Corporation. The agricultural operations within Pharmacia retain the Monsanto name - the company renown for Roundup® the Bovine Growth Hormone, multifarious seed companies, saccharin and NutraSweet®.

So what's in Monsanto's future? The company has formed a wheat industry advisory committee to provide advice and counsel on how best to bring forward biotechnology products in wheat. They have begun posting product safety information for their current agricultural biotechnology products. Along with Round Up, they are marketing with widespread availability the drug, L-DOPA, used today for the treatment of Parkinson's disease. And they have placed the first U.S. corporate order to General Motors for pick-up trucks that use ethanol-based E85 fuel, part of a larger initiative to focus new research to enhance the use of bioenergy.

After numerous corporate exchanges and company buy-outs, Chicago-based Merisant Corporation is the latest "named" manufacturer of NutraSweet/ Equal. But who knows what tomorrow will bring...

Posted April 2008 | Permanent Link

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