From the Sugar Association

Acesulfa-what?

Published online: Jan 05, 2010 Feature Andy Brisco, Pres. & CEO
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Have you ever heard of Acesulfame K? You probably haven't, but don't feel bad, neither have 92 percent of Americans.


Sometimes called Ace K for short, it might sound like a cool name for a rock band, roller coaster, or video game, but it's none of them. Ace K is a chemical artificial sweetener, and it's so common you've likely consumed a lot of it.


If you have children, you've probably given them Acesulfame K without knowing, too. The artificial sweetener can be found in snack cakes, juices marketed to tots, and even drinks designed to prevent dehydration in sick infants.


And if you think the no calorie sweetener is just used in sugar-free foods, think again. More and more, artificial sweeteners are winding up in sugar-containing products.


Why? Because food manufacturers are starting to take a "cocktail" approach to sweeteners in hopes of making foods even sweeter. Sugar alone cannot achieve the desired ultra-sweet flavor so man-made products like Acesulfame K, which was engineered in laboratories to be 200 times sweeter than sugar, are mixed in. Some food products contain five or six sweeteners, which are certainly not necessary for consumer consumption.


Speaking of laboratories, you almost need a degree in chemistry to understand what Acesulfame K is. Here's how Wikipedia describes it:
"In chemical structure, acesulfame potassium is the potassium salt of 6-methyl-1,2,3- oxathiazine-4(3H)-one 2,2-dioxide. It is a white crystalline powder with molecular formula C4H4KNO4S and a molecular weight of 201.24."


Sounds delicious.


No wonder America's natural supermarket, Whole Foods, lists Acesulfame K, as one of the ingredients that is "unacceptable in food products" sold in its stores.
Of course, that do

esn't mean the artificial sweetener is dangerous or harmful. Like most man-made ingredients, the company that markets and profits from the sweetener's sale conducted tests and assures the FDA it is safe.


Safety aside, one of the biggest controversies currently surrounding artificial sweeteners is a consumer's right to know what their family is eating.


Right now, food manufacturers bury artificial sweeteners in ingredient statements. Since nine-in-ten Americans have never heard of "Acesulfame K" or "6-methyl-1,2,3- oxathiazine-4(3H)-one 2,2-dioxide" listing either name in a laundry list of ingredients does little good, nor does it provide consumers with intelligible information on the sweeteners used in their foods and beverages.


That's why the Sugar Association has petitioned the FDA for truth in labeling. Specifically, sugar farmers and producers have asked the FDA to follow Canada's lead by listing sweeteners on the front of a package along with the amount of those sweeteners in the product.


So far, the request has fallen on deaf ears within FDA and the petition has languished in bureaucratic red tape for nearly five years.


But the time for waiting patiently has come to an end-more and more man-made sweeteners are coming online each year and the sweetener cocktail approach is becoming more and more prevalent in processed foods.


Recent consumer research shows that grocery shoppers want natural ingredients, and when given the information needed to make an informed decision, we are confident they will choose sugar-which has just 15 calories a teaspoon and has safely sweetened foods and beverages for more than 2,000 years.


And unlike Acesulfame K, Isomalt, Neotame, Erythritol, and other chemical sweeteners, people have actually heard of, and can pronounce, sugar.


Visit www.sugar.org for more information.