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Saccharin No Longer A Hazardous Substance

December 15, 2010

The US government on Tuesday removed the artificial sweetener saccharin, long believed to potentially be a cancer-causing substance, from its list of hazardous substances.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said the decision was made after studies found the white powdered substance that is 300 times sweeter than sugar “is no longer considered a potential” health hazard to humans.

Saccharin, which is used to artificially sweeten thousands of low-calorie beverages and chewing gum, and is often seen in pink packets of Sweet ‘N Low, was added to the list of hazardous substances in 1981 due to fears it caused bladder cancer in rats.

However, the National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer “re-evaluated the available scientific information on saccharin and its salts and concluded” that the substance is not potentially hazardous to human health and cannot be considered a carcinogen, the EPA said in a statement.

The EPA removed saccharin after being petitioned to do so by the Calorie Control Council (CCC), a group that represents low-calorie food sellers. “Extensive research on human populations has established no association between saccharin and cancer. More than 30 human studies have been completed and indicate saccharin’s safety at human levels of consumption,” the CCC told AFP.

Since the substance is so sweet, the average consumer of the artificial sweetener “ingests less than one ounce” per year, a level that is considered safe for human ingestion, it added.

The CCC also added that saccharin has been deemed safe by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Scientific Committee for Food of the European Union. Saccharin is now approved in more than 100 countries worldwide.

Saccharin does not meet the definition of a carcinogen because it passes through the body unchanged and does not react with DNA. “Human epidemiology studies (studies of patterns, causes, and control of diseases in groups of people) have shown no consistent evidence that saccharin is associated with bladder cancer incidence,” the National Cancer Institute said.

Saccharin was removed from the list as a potential carcinogen by the National Toxicology Program’s Report on Carcinogens in 2000, which led to the removal of its warning label. 

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