The futile search for a natural sugar alternative continues, and so does consumer confusion

Published online: Feb 03, 2014
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A recent New York Times article, The Quest for a Natural Sugar Alternative, chronicles the ongoing futile efforts to find an artificial sweetener that is both natural and flavorful.
 
The message is one The Sugar Association has stressed for years.
 
Of the more than 25 sweeteners in the U.S., there is only one all-natural real sugar (sucrose). And with more and more food manufacturers using a multiple-sweeteners cocktail approach of mixing numerous natural and artificial ingredients to sweeten foods, and with new sweeteners being invented every day, it is important that consumers know what they are getting.
 
But that's just not the always case.

In a 2010 Harris Interactive poll conducted by The Sugar Association, more than half (52 percent) of the parents in the United States try to avoid artificial sweeteners. Unfortunately, few can actually identify common chemical, artificial sweeteners used by food manufacturers.
 
For example, when shown the ingredient label from a common drink given to dehydrated infants, only four percent of those surveyed could identify the four sweeteners used in the product. And one-in-seven (13 percent) couldn't identify any of the sweeteners, which included fructose, dextrose, sucralose and acesulfame potassium.

The survey found similarly low name recognition for other common sweeteners. Only one percent have heard of neotame, six percent isomalt, and 25 percent maltose. Name recognition was higher among branded sweeteners-Equal, Sweet N Low, and Splenda-but those figures dropped by as much as half when the generic names of these products-saccharin, aspartame, and sucralose-were used.
 
Today many foods contain artificial sweeteners. To assist consumers in making informed choices about what is sweetening the products they purchase, the Sugar Association petitioned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requesting changes to labeling regulations on sugar and alternative sweeteners. In this petition we asked that artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols be identified on the front of the package along with the amounts, similar to what is required in Canada.

Eighty-seven percent of American parents said the sweetener used in a product is at least somewhat important to them, when polled by Harris. Consumers have a right to know what they are feeding their families, and the current labeling standards aren't working.

What's the use of including a laundry list of ingredients on food labels if people have no clue what those ingredients are or that many have average daily intake limits established by FDA?

We know people read food labels and depend on them to make smart choices, so why wouldn't ?FDA want to make labels easier for consumers to use?