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Sunette - non-caloric sweetner projected for FDA approval in 1990.

Sunette--non-caloric sweetner projected for FDA approval in 1990

Sweeteners, often ignored, are vital to the health and longevity of tea and coffee distributors. Without them, it is highly doubtful whether these beverages would have achieved the market penetration that it currently maintains. Teenagers, as they join their elders in the transition from childhood milk and soda pop, usually do not relish their first experience with adult drinks. They consider their mild bitterness rather objectionable. Addition of sugar creates a much more palatable drink for their unsophisticated taste, and is a material aid in their acceptance of coffee and life-long conversion to the beverage. As they become more accustomed to the bitterness, many appreciate it and find they require less and less sweetener until they reach the level of none. Others, particularly weight-conscious girls, quickly give up sugar because of its caloric content or switch to non-caloric varieties. Many consumers remain life-long devotees of saccharizers, either natural or synthetic.

Sunette is a new calorie-free sweetener which has recently been approved by the F.D.A. as a table top sugar substitute and as a component of hot and cold beverages. From the consumer standpoint, Sunette is the safest of all artificial sweeteners: the FDA has decreed that it requires no health of safety precaution warning. By contrast, the original synthetic is required to carry a label which states: "use of this product may be hazardous to your health as it contains saccharin which has been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals."

The other currently approved sugar replacement--Nutrasweet or Aspartame (used in Equal), must be labelled, "Phenylketonurics: contains Phenylalanine." This affliction, abbreviated PKU is an inborn defect of Phenyl alanine (PA) metalbolism. Most proteins contain four percent PA. A small percentage of humans are born with a deficiency of the enzyme which digests this essential amino acid. Build-up of excess PA in the blood stream causes mental retardation and other neurological symptoms. If this error in human metabolism is detected early, victims can be placed on a low PA diet and lead normal lives. However, they must continually guard against food containing PA and this includes Aspartame.

Other advantages of the new sweetener include its stability to heat. Both of the previously approved agents become bitter when exposed to heat in backed goods or sterilized canned products. The new agent retains its sweetness when thermally processed. Under these conditions Sunette has long shelf life both in powder mixes and liquid solutions. By using the potassium salt of the compound, it becomes sodium-free and is suitable for individuals who limit their sodium intake.

It has already received full FDA approval for use in dry beverage powder mixes, including tea and coffee; also puddings, desserts, chewing gum, dairy products analogs including toppings, and table top sweetener formulations. Approval for use in confection is pending and application for use in liquids and baked goods is under FDA study.

It has been officially approved as a sweetener in Great Britain since 1983 and is currently employed there in a wide range of foodstuff, including carbonated beverages, drink concentrates, desserts, table top sweeteners, low caloric diet products and pharmaceuticals. Some 20 other countries allow this additive, including France where it is utilized by the Coca Cola Company in Coke-Lite; and in West Germany, incorporated in herbal teas.

The pure agent, which carries the generic title "Acesulfame K" is available as a white, odorless, crystalline powder which is freely soluble in water but poorly soluble in alcohol. It is a relatively small molecule containing four atoms each of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen; and one atom each of nitrogen, sulfur and potassium. It is produced by the condensation of aceto-acetic acid ester with a sulfonyl compound. This is converted to an amide and cyclized.

Sunette is 200 times sweeter than cane sugar at the three percent level. This means that a quarter of an ounce of Sunette dissolved in 100 pounds of water is equal in sweetness to three pounds of sugar in an equal amount of water. It exhibits a clean sweetness with no foreign notes or bitter after-taste.

In foods, its sweetness is often the first taste experienced. In tea mixture, this is quite attractive. In coffee, individuals, who prefer black, find this initial sweetness somewhat objectionable; while sugar users find it quite palatable.

Sweetener envelopes customarily contain the equivalent of two teaspoons of sugar. This is such a small amount that it would be barely visible and many would think the envelope empty. Accordingly, envelope packers mix all synthetic sweeteners with about a gram of milk sugar. This imparts a caloric value to each envelope of four. Many find half an envelope adequate for a cup of brew.

Discovered in 1967, Acesulfame K was thoroughly tested for untoward effects for 15 years before being submitted for FDA approval. The FDA studied this product an additional six years before consenting to its human use. Tests for safety determination included studies on reproduction in rats and rabbits, teratology in rats, and mutagenicity. Data on metabolism, kinetics, distribution and elimination in rats, pregnant rats, diabetic rats, dogs, pigs and humans were submitted. Studies were performed concerning acute toxicity, chronic and subchrome toxicity and potential carcinogenicity.

Metabolism studies revealed no evidence that Sunette was digested or otherwise affected. It was fully excreted unchanged. Reproduction and teratogy studies produced no evidence that this compound had any effect on offsprings when the mother used it as the sole sweetener during pregnancy.

Mutagenicity tests did not indicate any genop-toxic effects or cellular changes. None of the various short term studies exhibited any adverse effects. A two year toxicity study in beagle dogs did not present any carcinogenic or toxic results associated with consumption of this sweetener.

The new sweetener has been subjected to the most rigorous tests conceivable to ensure its long term safety for human consumption. Tea and coffee themselves would be unable to pass some of the critical tests. If these beverages had not been on the market and were submitted to the FDA for approval as new components of the human diet, undoubtedly, they would be rejected. We are indeed fortunate that a "grandfather" factor in the Pure Food Law permits the continued availability of these long used beverages.

At any rate the public now has a choice of three different no-calorie sweeteners. Each has its own distinctive flavor and useful properties and will undoubtedly find a useful niche. Whether the public can support a fourth synthetic sweetener, now projected for approval in 1990, remains to be seen.

Additional details may be obtained from: Sunette Information Center, Hoechst-Celanese Corp., Chatham, N.J. 07928.
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Title Annotation:Food and Drug Administration
Author:Lee, Samuel
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Jun 1, 1989
Next Article:Fine teas plus exotic coffees power Taylors marketing drive.

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