CSPI releases analysis of heartland food products' defense of sucralose

In February, the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest downgraded its safety rating of the artificial sweetener sucralose, also known by the brand name Splenda, on the basis of a peer-reviewed study indicating the chemical caused cancer in lab animals. The manufacturer of Splenda, Heartland Food Products, issued a defense of its sweetener and attacked the credibility of the laboratory that conducted the tests. However, a CSPI analysis of Heartland’s defense finds that the Carmel, Indiana-based company distorts the scientific evidence concerning the safety of the sweetener and the reliability of animal feeding studies in general.

Heartland claims that CSPI’s rating, which was downgraded from “caution” to “avoid” after the publication of the study, “does not reflect the collective body of scientific evidence proving the safety of sucralose.” But according to CSPI, the earlier research on sucralose was produced almost entirely by industry, not by independent laboratories without a stake in the outcome. Moreover, only two of those industry-funded studies tested for possible carcinogenicity, and they used a design inferior to that used by the Ramazzini Institute, which conducted the recently published study. Not only is the Ramazzini test the only independent cancer research on sucralose, it was the most sensitive, CSPI said. It found a nine-to-10-fold difference in leukemias between male mice not treated with sucralose and two different groups that were treated with sucralose.

“Heartland is right when it points out that excess intake of added sugars can contribute to being overweight, and we agree that the health risks posed by regular soft drinks far exceed the risks posed by diet sodas, including those that contain sucralose,” said CSPI president Michael F. Jacobson. “But that’s no excuse to sweep these troubling research findings under the rug and continue adding a potential carcinogen to more and more food products.”

Sucralose is used in more products, and in more new products, than any other sugar substitute.