Splenda // is the commercial name and registered trade mark of a sucralose-based artificial sweetener derived from sugar, owned by the British company Tate & Lyle and American company Johnson & Johnson. Sucralose was discovered by Tate & Lyle and researchers at Queen Elizabeth College, University of London, in 1976. Tate & Lyle subsequently developed sucralose-based Splenda products in partnership with Johnson & Johnson subsidiary McNeil Nutritionals LLC.
Since its approval by the United States government in 1998 and introduction there in 1999, sucralose has overtaken Equal in the $1.5-billion artificial sweetener market, holding a 62% market share. According to market research firm IRI, Splenda sales were $212 million in 2006 in the U.S. while Equal's totaled $48.7 million. According to a 2012 article in The New Zealand Herald it is "the category leader in table-top sweetener in the US".
In April 2009, the International Trade Commission closed a patent infringement case that will permit Chinese manufacturers to produce generic versions of Splenda products which will be sold under different brand names.
Splenda is available in granular and tablet form.
Energy (caloric) content
Sucralose has no caloric content, and Splenda products have a lower caloric content than sugar. The actual energy content of a single-serving (1-g packet) of Splenda is 3.36 kilocalories, 31% of those of a single-serving (2.8-g packet) of granulated sugar (10.8 kcal). In the United States, it is legally labelled "zero calories"; U.S. FDA regulations allow this "if the food contains less than 5 Calories per reference amount customarily consumed and per labeled serving". Further, Splenda contains a relatively small amount of sucralose, little of which is metabolized; virtually all of Splenda's caloric content derives from the dextrose or highly fluffed maltodextrin "bulking agents" that give Splenda its volume. Like other carbohydrates, dextrose and maltodextrin have 3.75 calories per gram.
Unlike other artificial sweeteners, sucralose is heat stable up to 450 °F (232 °C), so Splenda can be used as a replacement for table sugar in cooking and baking, and there are Splenda products packaged specifically for this purpose. In product testing by Cook's Illustrated, the major drawback to cooking with Splenda was found to be that it does not produce the browning or caramelization the way table sugar does. However, Cook's Illustrated also found the desserts baked with Splenda were without "the artificial flavors that just about every other sugar substitute brings with it".
Health and safety regulation
Splenda usually contains 95% dextrose (D-glucose) and maltodextrin which the body readily metabolizes, combined with a small amount of mostly indigestible sucralose. Sucralose is made by replacing three select hydrogen-oxygen groups on sucrose (table sugar) molecules with three chlorine atoms. The tightly bound chlorine atoms create a molecular structure that is remarkably stable. Sucralose itself is recognized as safe to ingest as a diabetic sugar substitute, but some Splenda products may contain sugars or other carbohydrates that should be evaluated individually. Research as of 2003 suggested that the amount of sucralose that can be consumed on a daily basis over a person's lifetime without any adverse effects is 15 mg/kg/day, or about 1 g for a 70 kg (150 lb) person. This was revised downward in 2008 to 9 mg/kg/day, or about 0.6 g.
A repeated dose study of sucralose in human subjects concluded that "there is no indication that adverse effects on human health would occur from frequent or long-term exposure to sucralose at the maximum anticipated levels of intake". Conversely, a Duke University study conducted on rats (funded by The Sugar Association) shows that sucralose consumption levels of 1.1 mg/kg (below the FDA 'safe' level) to 11 mg/kg, throughout a 12-week administration of Splenda, exhibited numerous adverse effects, including reduction in beneficial fecal microflora, increased fecal pH, and enhanced expression levels of P-gp, CYP3A4, and CYP2D1, which are known to limit the bioavailability of nutrients and orally administered drugs. These effects have not been observed in humans, and the relevance of this animal study to human health is unknown. The study has been the subject of some controversy, with experts disagreeing over the validity of its conclusions. The other ingredients in Splenda, dextrose and maltodextrin, are listed as generally recognized as safe because of their long history of safe consumption.
Other studies have determined that sucralose is not a biologically inert compound, having possible toxic effects, including creation of dioxin-like compounds when sucralose is heated. Even though Splenda is marketed as being suitable for baking purposes, no human toxicity studies have been done on the thermal breakdown products of sucralose.
Furthermore, even though Splenda is sold and consumed on a global scale, long-term human-health studies regarding diets containing regular daily intakes of sucralose (and its thermal breakdown products) have also not been done.
Additionally, detailed studies on the environmental fate of sucralose and its breakdown products (for example, as released into aquatic ecosystems via the effluent streams from wastewater treatment plants) have also not been carried out.
In 2006, Merisant, the maker of Equal, filed suit against McNeil Nutritionals in U.S. District Court, Philadelphia, alleging that Splenda's tagline "Made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar" is misleading. McNeil argued during the trial that it had never deceived consumers or set out to deceive them, since the product is in fact made from sugar. Merisant asked that McNeil be ordered to surrender profits and modify its advertising. The case ended with an agreement reached outside of court, with undisclosed settlement conditions. The lawsuit was the latest move in a long-simmering dispute. In 2004, Merisant filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau regarding McNeil's advertising. McNeil alleged that Merisant's complaint was in retaliation for a ruling in federal court in Puerto Rico, which forced Merisant to stop packaging Equal in packages resembling Splenda's. McNeil filed suit in Puerto Rico seeking a ruling which would declare its advertising to not be misleading. Following Merisant's lawsuit in Philadelphia, McNeil agreed to a jury trial and to the dismissal of its lawsuit in Puerto Rico. However, on May 11, 2007, the parties reached a settlement on the case, the terms of which were not disclosed. Currently, Splenda is advertised with the slogan, "It starts with sugar. It tastes like sugar. But it's not sugar."
In 2007, Merisant France prevailed in the Commercial Court of Paris against subsidiaries of McNeil Nutritionals LLC. The court awarded Merisant $54,000 in damages and ordered the defendants to cease advertising claims found to violate French consumer protection laws, including the slogans "Because it comes from sugar, sucralose tastes like sugar" and "With sucralose: Comes from sugar and tastes like sugar".
A Sugar Association complaint to the Federal Trade Commission stated that "Splenda is not a natural product. It is not cultivated or grown and it does not occur in nature." McNeil Nutritionals, the manufacturer of Splenda, has responded that its "advertising represents the products in an accurate and informative manner and complies with applicable advertising rules in the countries where Splenda brand products are marketed." The U.S. Sugar Association created a web site to criticise sucralose which cites an association-sponsored study.
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- Tate and Lyle history
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- 21 C.F.R. 184.1444
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- Browning, Lynnley (May 12, 2007) Artificial Sweetener Makers Reach Settlement on Slogan, New York Times
- Heller, Lorraine (May 14, 2007) Splenda ad slogans banned in France, Food Navigator
- Splenda Ads Condemned as Misleading to Consumers by International Advertising Boards, Sugar Farmers and Processors, Sugar Association Press Release, November 2, 2006
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- "The Truth About Splenda" website by the Sugar Association