Regulatory food safety bodies confirm safety of low calorie sweeteners

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ISA response to study by Harpaz et al.

In response to claims in the recent publication by Harpaz et al1, the International Sweeteners Association (ISA) would like to highlight that approved low calorie sweeteners are amongst the most thoroughly researched ingredients worldwide.

Before being approved for use on the market, low calorie sweeteners must undergo a thorough safety assessment by the competent food safety authority, such as the Joint Expert Scientific Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) of the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Based on extensive testing and a strong body of scientific evidence, regulatory food safety bodies around the world consistently confirm their safety.

The publication by Harpaz et al. does not provide evidence that low calorie sweeteners can be toxic to digestive gut microbes in humans. Indeed, these findings resulted from an in vitro experiment, which exposed bacteria to very high concentrations of low calorie sweeteners out of the human body. It is important to mention that these are in vitro testing conditions which could have caused reactions that would not be seen with real-life exposure conditions in humans, meaning that under such conditions, the study cannot be predictive of what would happen in real life use of sweeteners.

A strong body of well-designed and robust studies conducted in vivo according to the validated guideline methods, in both animals and humans, have confirmed that low calorie sweeteners are safe2,3,4.

  1. Harpaz D, Yeo LP, Cecchini F, Koon THP, Kushmaro A, Tok AIY, Marks RS, Eltzov E. Measuring artificial sweeteners toxicity using a bioluminescent bacterial panel. Molecules 2018; 23(10): 2454
  2. Fitch C, Keim KS; Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (US). Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: use of nutritive and non-nutritive sweeteners. J Acad Nutr Diet 2012; 112(5): 739-58
  3. Magnuson BA, Carakostas MC, Moore NH, Poulos SP, Renwick AG. Biological fate of low-calorie sweeteners. Nutr Rev 2016; 74(11): 670-689
  4. Serra-Majem L, Raposo A, Aranceta-Bartrina J, et al. Ibero‚ÄďAmerican Consensus on Low- and No-Calorie Sweeteners: Safety, nutritional aspects and benefits in food and beverages. Nutrients 2018; 10: 818