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US FDA approves advantame as new sweetener

The US FDA has approved a new high intensity sweetener, advantame, for general use in foods and beverages. This new sweetener, whose safety is supported by 37 scientific studies, has successfully completed the food additive petition approval process of the FDA. This is the first time the FDA has approved a new high intensity sweetener through the food additive approval process since 2002.

Derived from vanillin and aspartame, advantame is a clean-tasting, free-flowing, water soluble, white crystalline powder that has similar stability to aspartame in most applications, and better stability in many other applications, notably high temperatures.

It is about 20,000 times sweeter than sucrose and 100 times sweeter than aspartame. Advantame has a clean, sweet taste very similar to aspartame with only a slightly longer sweetness duration. Advantame, which has no brand name yet, is now the sixth sweetest food additive. 

Its approval for general use gives both manufacturers and consumers many options for its use and consumption, and because of its sweetness, it will be needed only at very low levels in foods and beverages. Research suggests that it could reduce the calories in some sweet drinks by 30 percent without changing the flavour. The vanillin helps mask any potential off taste from alternative sweeteners.

“We are pleased FDA has approved another low calorie sweetener,” said Haley Curtis Stevens, PhD, President of the Calorie Control Council. “More than ever before, consumers need low calorie (and no calorie) options, which can all be part of a healthy diet and lifestyle.”

The FDA based its approval on the results from 37 animal and human studies that were conducted by Japanese manufacturer, Ajinomoto, who first began the FDA-approval process for advantame in 2009. It has already been approved in Australia, New Zealand, and approvals are currently pending in the European Union, as well as Japan.

The safety studies were designed to identify the sweetener’s possible toxic side effects, such as reproductive, neurological, and cancer-causing effects and found it to be safe for human consumption.

“We are all very excited about Advantame. The clean sugar-like taste means that it blends very well with sugar and other caloric sweeteners, providing food and beverage companies with an alternative that has meaningful nutritional advantages,” Brendan Naulty, Senior Vice President of supplier Ajinomoto North America. “Using less caloric sweetener to deliver good-tasting foods and beverages is a real plus in today’s marketplace.”

The sweetener can withstand normal storage. The product could be used in items ranging from “table top sweeteners, powered soft drinks, carbonated drinks, and desserts to chewing gums,” Ajinomoto says.

The consumer lobby group CSPI said that it will be carefully reviewing the studies on Advantame. CSPI Senior Scientist Lisa Lefferts: “However, an initial concern is that in a key cancer study in mice, the number of mice that survived to the end of the study was below FDA’s own scientific recommendations, and is therefore inadequate to provide confidence in the safety of a chemical likely to be consumed by millions of people.”

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