Low calorie sweeteners are safe for children

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ISA statement in response to new technical scientific report by Lott et al.

Brussels, 19th September 2019: Responding to the new technical scientific report by Lott et al. regarding recommendations for Healthy Beverage Consumption in Early Childhood1, the International Sweeteners Association (ISA) would point to the safety of all approved low calorie sweeteners for both adults and children, as consistently confirmed by international regulatory authorities.2,3,4

Low/no-calorie sweeteners are amongst the most thoroughly researched ingredients worldwide. All approved low/no-calorie sweeteners have undergone a stringent safety assessment by food safety agencies around the world, including the Joint Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)/ World Health Organization (WHO) Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which have consistently confirmed their safety, in line with the wealth of scientific evidence. The risk assessment experts of these food safety agencies establish an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) for approved low/no-calorie sweeteners, that represents the daily amount that can be safely consumed over a lifetime without any health risk.

Research at global level confirms that low calorie sweeteners’ intake is well below the individual sweetener Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) among the general population, in both children and adults. Food safety agencies monitor any food additive intake on a regular basis, including that of approved low calorie sweeteners, ensuring that actual consumption of any low calorie sweetener remains within the set ADI. For example, EFSA is currently conducting a re-evaluation of all low/no-calorie sweeteners approved before 2009 to ensure a continuous assessment of these ingredients’ safety on the basis of the latest available research.

At a time when obesity and non-communicable diseases remain major global health challenges, and public health authorities are encouraging food manufacturers to replace sugar and reduce calories as part of their reformulation goals, it is critical that the public is provided with reliable science-based information regarding the safety and the utility of low calorie sweeteners, which is supported by food safety authorities and health organisations worldwide.5,6

Nevertheless, it is important to highlight that in the European Union, low calorie sweeteners, like any food additive, are not generally approved for use in foods intended for infants and young children under the age of three. Sufficient calorie intake is indeed critical for the developing child, so choosing a wide variety of nutritious foods in the right amounts will allow a child to grow into a healthy weight.

Used in foods, beverages and tabletop sweeteners, low calorie sweeteners can provide people, including children, with a wide choice of sweet-tasting options with low or no calories, and thus can be a useful tool, when used in place of sugar and as part of a balanced diet, in helping reduce overall sugar and calorie intake, as well as in managing blood glucose levels. Low calorie sweeteners are also non-cariogenic, which means that they do not contribute to tooth decay.

  1. Lott M, Callahan E, Welker Duffy E, Story M, Daniels S. Healthy Beverage Consumption in Early Childhood: Recommendations from Key National Health and Nutrition Organizations. Technical Scientific Report. Durham, NC: Healthy Eating Research, 2019. Available at http://healthyeatingresearch.org
  2. http://www.fao.org/food/food-safety-quality/scientific-advice/jecfa/en/
  3. https://www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-petitions/high-intensity-sweeteners
  4. http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/topics/topic/sweeteners
  5. Martyn D, Darch M, Roberts A, Lee HY, Tian TY, Kaburagi N, Belmar P. Low-/No-Calorie Sweeteners: A Review of Global Intakes. Nutrients 2018; 10(3): 357
  6. Renwick AG. The intake of intense sweeteners – an update review. Food Addit Contam 2006 Apr; 23: 327-38