Ag, Consumer Groups Take on Artificial Sweetener

Sugar industry has teamed up with consumer groups in its effort to get advertising claims changed for Splenda product. Compiled by staff

Published on: Feb 15, 2005

The artificial sweetener Splenda, which is created through a chemical process that starts with sugar, is under attack for its marketing campaign. What started as a lawsuit from sugar cane and sugarbeet producers has expanded as consumer groups have joined in on the effort to for Splenda's maker - McNeil Nutritionals - to change its "misleading advertising claims and marketing practices."

The group, which includes the Sugar Association, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (often called the "food police" for its dietary guideline reports), and the National Grange, released a statement that says it is "concerned that the manufacturers of Splenda are confusing consumers into believeing that [the product] contains real, all-natural sugar."

The advertising claim made for the product is "Made from Sugar, So it Tastes Like Sugar." The groups claim that the product "is a highly processed chemical substance called sucralose, which is manufactured in a chemical plant in Alabama. The final product contains no sugar, and the compound sucralose, in fact, cannot be found anywhere in nature."

Splenda's makers point out in press reports that truckloads of sugar go into the Alabama facility where the sweetener is made. Since it was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for marketing in 1998, the product has picked up a significant share of the artificial sweetener market. However, in the past two years, Splenda has seen market growth against sugar as well, in light of the low-carb diet craze.

Interestingly, CSPI has long been a critic of U.S. sugar consumption, blaming it for high obesity rates. The group noted in a Wall Street Journal report that it doesn't question the safety of Splenda (which it notes on the CSPI Web site); it is instead concerned about the marketing campaign.

A CSPI consumer survey, widely reported this morning, shows that of 426 Splenda users polled 57% correctly believed it was an artificial sweetener. The group says 47% of the Splenda users "incorrectly believed it was a natural product." Only 8% of the respondents believed it was made from sugar and chlorine, the group reports. 

The U.S. Sugar Association has launched a new Web site - www.truthaboutsplenda.com - you can check out for more information.

"We are concerned that consumers are buying Splenda thinking it's natural like sugar, when the final product is nothing like sugar and is certainly not natural," says Andy Bricoe, president of the U.S. Sugar Association.