SweetMyx is the latest artificial sweetener to receive Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status, but how safe is it?
Sweetmyx doesn’t work like other artificial sweeteners on the market. This chemical isn’t actually sweet on its own. Instead, it enhances the sweetness of sugar that’s already in a can of soda or candy bar. It might be better to call Sweetmyx a sweetness enhancer.
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Right now, PepsiCo owns exclusive rights to Sweetmyx, so only Pepsi products can contain this new chemical sweetness enhancer.
Is Sweetmyx safe?
GRAS approval means that Sweetmyx is a safe food additive in the eyes of the FDA. Unfortunately, they don’t have the best track record with handing out GRAS status. The system for labeling additives GRAS is “fundamentally broken,” according to Tom Neltner, an expert on the GRAS process with Pew Charitable Trust and NRDC.
Sweetmyx’s approval is a great example of this broken system in action.
Bruce Bradley, a former food industry executive turned activist, explains that the way Sweetmyx received its GRAS status seems a little bit dicey. Senomyx – the company that produced Sweetmyx for PepsiCo – declared their product GRAS.
But what was that based on?
According to Bradley, the evidence they used came from a group called FEMA. FEMA is a flavoring industry trade group: the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association.
So is Sweetmyx safe? It could be. It’s hard to trust the evidence when it comes from a group that stands to profit from a positive result, though. There is a long history of shadiness when it comes to testing in the chemical industry. Companies often just don’t release any trials with negative results or rig trials to give more positive ones.
Sweetmyx could be totally safe, or there could be side effects that Senomyx and FEMA are sweeping under the rug. Because the GRAS system is such a mess, it’s tough to know for sure.
Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by Matt