Sweeteners in food formulation face new rules

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Sweeteners, Sucralose

Food manufacturers using the sweetener cyclamate face change as
they come to grips with new European rules that radically reduce
the use of this man-made, non-caloric sweetener 30 times as sweet
as sucrose. German ingredients firm Nutrinova has come up with an
alternative.

Banned in the US since 1970, changes to cyclamate levels in the EU Sweeteners Directive (94/35/EC) cleared last November mean that food manufacturers will have to reformulate the sweetening system of their products as the new directive restricts the use of cyclamate in water, milk and fruit juice based drinks as well as energy-reduced and no-added sugar drinks and a range of confectionery products, including sugar-free chewing gum and breath-freshening sweets.

"Nutrinova has developed formulations and conducted studies which demonstrate how blending with Sunett - the high intensity sweetener acesulfame K - can enable manufacturers to overcome the challenges posed by cyclamate reduction and exploit the synergies between Sunett and sucralose, as well as blending Sunett with other nutritive or non-nutritive sweeteners,"​ said Nutrinova in a statement this week.

Along with the amendments to the cyclamate levels last year, Brussels anchored two new sweeteners sucralose and aspartame-acesulfame salt into the positive list of sweeteners in the same directive. Paving the way for companies such as Nutrinova to bring these high intensity sugar replacers to marketplace and to access new opportunities in food formulation.

"Nutrinova has conducted extensive tests to reduce cyclamate levels in beverages to the required level of 250mg/l, without incurring additional costs or changing the taste of products from that of current blends containing higher cyclamate levels,"​ said the company. Adding that it has also developed cyclamate-free recipes for low-sugar or sugar-free confectionery, chewing gum and edible ices.

As a single sweetener, sucralose (trichlorogalactosucrose) - a synthetically produced intense sweetener - exhibits a longer sweetness build and more pronounced, more lingering aftertaste than sugar. In independent taste studies, blends containing Sunett and sucralose were closer to sugar than sucralose when used as single sweetener, the company added.

Under the new directive, if launched before 29 July 2005, existing products with previously accepted cyclamate levels can continue to be sold until 29 January 2006, putting the pressure on manufacturers to find alternative ways of reformulating their products with less, or without, cyclamate, which is also known as E952.

In the UK, cyclamates have not been widely used by UK manufacturers due to the regulatory position prior to the adoption to the original sweeteners directive in 1995 - in other words, they were not permitted under UK legislation. As a result, there is no tradition of using these sweeteners in the UK, and most products containing cyclamates on sale there are imported.

But the amendment will still demand change for a number of manufacturers, according to the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), the changes are in hand. "Those sectors who have been affected by the new directive are taking steps to apply the regulation. The introduction of two new sweeteners as well as those already approved, provide a number of options if manufacturers have to reformulate,"​ a spokesperson for the FDF told FoodNavigator.com, referring to the inclusion of sucralose (E955) and salt of aspartame - acesulfame (E962) into the EU Sweeteners Directive (94/35/EC).

Sucralose was developed jointly by McNeil Specialty Products company and UK sugar giant Tate & Lyle. The product now has approval for use in foods and beverages in more than 40 countries including Canada, Australia and Mexico.

A 2002 report from market analysts Mintel claims that while there is robust growth within the new sucralose-based artificial sweeteners, sales are not yet of sufficient size to affect overall industry trends. Suggesting that the amendments to the European sweeteners directive could provide a welcome boost to sales.

Retail sales of sugar and artificial sweeteners in the US alone were weak between 1997 and 2002, with industry sales decreasing from $2.7 billion to $2.5 billion. In 2000, however, the rate of contraction in sales slowed. Mintel estimates 2002 year end sales to be nearly unchanged from 2001.

The patent for cyclamate, an artificial sweetener discovered in 1937 at the University of Illinois in the US, was initially purchased by chemical giant DuPont but later sold to Abbott Laboratories who undertook the necessary studies and submitted a New Drug Application in 1950. Abbott intended to use cyclamate to mask the bitterness of certain drugs such as antibiotics and pentobarbital.

In the US in 1958 it was designated GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) only to be later banned from sale by the Food and Drug Administration in 1970 after lab tests indicated that large amounts of cyclamates caused bladder cancer in rats. The findings of these studies have been challenged and some companies are petitioning to have cyclamates reapproved, claims the US-based Calorie Control Council.

Cyclamate, approved in over 55 countries, is often used synergistically with other artificial sweeteners such as saccharin - such as 10 parts cyclamate to 1 part saccharin. Sodium and calcium cyclamate are about 30 to 50 times sweeter than sucrose, the lowest figure for commercially used artificial sweeteners compared to acesulfame-K, for example, that is 200 times sweeter than sucrose.

Related topics: Ingredients

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