From Splenda® Is It Safe Or Not? by Janet Starr Hull, PhD, CN
I am starting this article on “healthy sweeteners” with an “artificial sweetener” most people think causes cancer, but saccharin is the safest and actually one of the safest alternative sweeteners (if you insist on tearing open a colored packet, that is).
Natural sugars such as Sucanat® and stevia are preferable over saccharin of course, but saccharin has less harmful side effects than the more modern artificial, chemical sweeteners like aspartame (especially for the diabetic), and it is readily available.
Advertisers have painted a very different picture of saccharin over the past twenty years, and the politics behind “sodium saccharide” have left the pink pack with a bum rap.
Saccharin is actually a natural plant sugar derivative from China pre WWII, and back in the day when saccharin was “accidentally” discovered as a marketable product, it was considered an authentic sugar substitute because it was the only known alternative to traditional sugar.
Unfortunately, today saccharin has been artificially reproduced in the laboratory, and the modern-day pink packet is now filled with anti-caking agents and emulsifiers. Saccharin is no longer sourced to its origin, but is still the most natural choice of the “colorful paper packets.”
Choose the pink packets sitting on the table tops if you insist on using an added sweetener — even if the packets have different brand names. But don’t use as much saccharin as you use for the blue or yellow packets – just a little bit goes a long way with saccharin.
Just a pinch will do.
The Chinese used a form of saccharin that came from plants – the manufacturing history of saccharin tells the story of its safety. In 1879, Constantine Fahlberg discovered the sweetness of saccharin by accident. While working on plant studies in the lab, Fahlberg spilled some chemicals on his hand. Later while eating dinner, he noticed more sweetness in his bread. He traced the sweetness back to the spilled chemical, which he later named saccharin—a spin-off of saccharide (complex sugar).
By 1907, saccharin was used as a replacement for sugar in foods for diabetics and in the “new” Coca Cola®. Since pure saccharin is not metabolized into the bloodstream, it is classified as a noncaloric sweetener.
By the 1960s, it was used on a wider scale in the “diet” soft drink industry in Coca Cola’s Tab® and Fresca®, but primarily due to the times, the diet industry never took off.
Saccharin was widely used in Europe during World War II because of a sugar shortage. My father starting using saccharin during World War II while stationed in India, and safely used it his entire lifetime. Daddy was the one who first taught me the origin of saccharin from China.
Most European countries used saccharin as their number one alternative sweetener of choice until NutraSweet lost its patent in the 1990s, spawning the introduction of many new chemical sweetener choices, like sucralose discovered in the UK.
NutraSweet and saccharin (its only competitor at the time) were eventually owned by the same company—Monsanto Chemical Company. After a well designed marketing plan, the FDA printed cancer warnings on saccharin packets the year NutraSweet came onto the market.
Saccharin’s manufacturer didn’t fight back because both saccharin and aspartame were owned and marketed by the same company- Monsanto.
Monsanto sold The NutraSweet Company in 2000. In 2001, the cancer warning was removed from saccharin products.
Saccharin is now deemed safe for human consumption—once again.
After more than one hundred years of use worldwide, there have only been 6 complaints against saccharin registered with the FDA. Yet, saccharin is the most questioned food ingredient among the chemical sweeteners—the only sweetener labeled as a possible carcinogen. And the one that never caused cancer.
Extensive research on human populations shows no association between saccharin and cancer. In fact, more than 30 human studies have been performed, and all the research supports saccharin’s safety at human levels of consumption. It appears that the corporate saccharin cancer studies in the late 1960s were indeed questionable and an example of the marketing genius behind promoting a new sweetener product – NutraSweet.
Cumberland Packing Corp., Brooklyn, New York, manufactured Sweet‘N Low® containing saccharin for over 40 years. In 2002, 20+ years after the flawed cancer studies, Cumberland hailed the U.S. Congress for honoring the original moratorium agreement (made back in 1981) to lift the cancer warning and grant saccharin a clean bill of health.
Check out my book for more details on this little tid-bit of information.
“We were finally able to remove the cancer warning from all of our products, and that was a big deal,” Cumberland marketing director stated. “We went so far as to replace the cancer warning with the Good Housekeeping Seal. We turned unfair negatives into an immediate positive.”
(See Appendix VII in Splenda®:Is It Safe Or Not? for the FDA Report on Saccharin Safety.)
Saccharin—The Oldest Artificial Sweetener
If it were still processed from a natural source, saccharin could be considered a natural sugar like stevia and Sucanat. But after World War II, saccharin fell prey to laboratory manufacturing.
It is now processed using manmade components to curb manufacturing costs, but for the most part saccharin’s chemical make-up is simple—especially in comparison to the manufacturing process of the other chemical sweeteners, such as sucralose (made with chlorine) and aspartame (made with methanol).
Saccharin created the foundation for many low-calorie and sugar-free products around the world. It is still used in tabletop sweeteners, baked goods, jams, chewing gum, canned fruit, candy, dessert toppings and salad dressings.
Saccharin contains only one-eighth of a calorie per teaspoon, and is approximately 300 times sweeter than sugar. Today, saccharin is available in both powdered and liquid forms and sold without the cancer warning, and is being reintroduced into food products as safe.
If you must use an artificial sweetener, I personally recommend saccharin over aspartame and sucralose, due to the respective methanol and chlorine content.
Here’s to your health!
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only, and is educational in nature. The FDA may not have evaluated some of the statements. This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please discuss with your own, qualified health care provider before adding supplements or making any changes to your dietary program.
Before taking vitamins, consult your doctor; pre-existing medical conditions or medications you are taking can affect how your body responds to multivitamins.