In spite of rigorous pre- and post-market reviews of safety, there remains a high level of debate regarding the use of artificial sweeteners in foods. Young children are of particular interest when assessing food chemical exposure as a result of their unique food consumption patterns and comparatively higher exposure to food chemicals on a body weight basis when compared with the general population. The present study examined the intakes of four intense sweeteners (acesulfame K, aspartame, saccharin, sucralose) in the diets of children aged 1–4 years using food consumption and sweetener presence data from the Irish National Pre-school Nutrition Survey (2010–11) and analytical data for sweetener concentration in foods obtained from a national testing programme. Four exposure assessment scenarios were conducted using the available data on sweetener occurrence and concentration. The results demonstrated that the mean daily intakes for all four sweeteners were below the acceptable daily intake (ADI) (17–31%), even considering the most conservative assumptions regarding sweetener presence and concentration. High consumer intakes (P95) were also below the ADI for the four sweeteners when more realistic estimates of exposure were considered. Both sweetener occurrence and concentration data had a considerable effect on reducing the estimated intake values, with a combined reduction in intakes of 95% when expressed as a proportion of the ADI. Flavoured drinks were deemed to be a key contributor to artificial sweetener intakes in this population cohort. It was concluded that there is no health risk to Irish pre-school children at current dietary intake levels of the sweeteners studied.
In conclusion, this comprehensive exposure assessment of Irish pre-school children to four low calorie sweeteners (acesulfame K, aspartame, saccharin and sucralose) has illustrated that there are no health concerns at current dietary intake levels for the typical consumer.