Tate & Lyle, maker of Splenda, or sucralose, has suggested that rivals in the sugar industry have orchestrated a consumer health campaign against the artificial sweetener in the US. “We see the Citizens for Health movement as a tactic in a chain of events organised by bodies with a vested interest,” Ferne Hudson, Tate & Lyle spokesperson, told just-food.

The Citizens for Health have asked the US Food and Drug Administration to pull sucralose from the market while the regulator investigates claims that the sweetener causes stomach pains, headaches and rashes.

In the constricting sugar market, sucralose has become an increasingly important product for Tate & Lyle’s ingredients division. It is also sold as a table-top sweetener under the brand name Splenda by Tate & Lyle’s US partners McNeil Nutritionals, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson. According to its latest released results, Tate & Lyle made profits of GBP33m (US$57.73m) from sucralose sales, about a fifth of the group’s profits.

Citizens for Health claim that they have been contacted by a number of people who have experienced adverse effects after consuming the sweetener. This, coupled with anecdotal evidence found on anti-sucralose websites, prompted the consumer group to call for the sale of sucralose to be halted.

Tate & Lyle responded sceptically to the group’s concerns: “These organisations have made claims, which are highly misleading, bringing together inaccurate Internet rumours and bad science that is misleading consumers in an attempt to damage the Splenda  brand and sucralose ingredient. The simple fact about sucralose is that there is no evidence that it causes any side effects whatsoever. This is why a safety statement or warning level has never been required.”

McNeil added: “The safety of sucralose is well documented in more than 100 scientific studies conducted over a 20-year period. In addition, sucralose and, specifically, the safety data on sucralose, has been reviewed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other national regulatory agencies, as well as by international health authorities such as the World Health Organization, and found to be safe for use by all consumers, including children, pregnant women and people with diabetes.”

The press conference to launch Citizens for Health’s petition was promoted by Qorvis, the public relations firm hired by the Sugar Association to set up the website and to run the anti-sucralose campaign. The Citizens for Health said that the Sugar Association had not funded their actions, although it does support the use of sugar over artificial sweeteners.
The FDA has said that it will review the petition.