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News of the Food

Not So Sweet

By Stett Holbrook

Consumer and farming groups chose Valentine's Day to launch a campaign against Johnson & Johnson and its Splenda brand sweetener. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) accuses Johnson & Johnson of misleading the public about Splenda, one of America's bestselling sweeteners. According to the Washington, D.C.-based organization, Splenda's slogan, "Made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar," is false. While it is low in calories and doesn't rot out your teeth, Splenda isn't made from sugar. It is made in a laboratory. Other groups have questioned the health effects of the sweetener.

Splenda is made from sucralose, a highly processed chlorinated sweetener. The product contains no sugar, but apparently many people think it does. A poll conducted by CSPI last year found 47 percent of Splenda users believed it was a natural product.

"'Made from sugar,' certainly sounds better than, say, 'made from chlorinated hydrocarbons' or 'made in a laboratory' or 'fresh from the factory,'" says Michael F. Jacobson, CSPI's executive director. "Splenda's artificiality may present a marketing challenge, but that's not an excuse to confuse consumers and lead them to believe that Splenda is natural or in any way related to sugar." A representative from Johnson & Johnson couldn't be reached for comment.

Joining CSPI in its criticism of Splenda and its parent company Johnson & Johnson are sugar industry groups and the National Grange, the nation's oldest farm and rural public interest organization. The National Grange has asked the Fair Trade Commission to investigate Splenda's marketing practices.

"As a finished product, Splenda contains no elements of natural sugar whatsoever," wrote National Grange legislative director Leroy Watson to Fair Trade Commission chairwoman Deborah Platt Majoras. "It is made in a chemical plant, not by nature in a sugar cane or sugar beet field."

Refined sugar isn't exactly health food, but at least you know what you're getting.

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From the March 2-8, 2005 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

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