SweetenersSaccharin is an organic petroleum-based compound that is three to fivehundred times sweeter than sucrose.
It is non-nutritive because the humanbody is unable to metabolize the foreign chemical. Saccharin does notcontribute calories; for this reason it is commonly used in diet foods. “The obese feel that saccharin is their lifeline to slimdom, anddiabetics claim it is essential to control their blood sugar” (Brody482). The same people who consume saccharin certainly would not knowinglyeat something that is classified as toxic waste; however, they do it on adaily basis. Saccharin’s alias is EPA Hazardous Waste number U202.
Infact, workers who handle saccharin are cautioned, “EXERCISE DUE CARE. AVOID CONTACT WITH EYES, SKIN, CLOTHING. WASH THOROUGHLY AFTER HANDLING. IF SWALLOWED, IF CONCIOUS, IMMEDIATELY INDUCE VOMITING” (MSDS).
Saccharin has always been surrounded by controversy. As early as 1907,the public was concerned over its safety and proposed banning it. Theodore Roosevelt, a diabetic, fought the idea. He said, “My doctorgives it to me every day. .
. Anybody who says saccharin is injurious tohealth is an idiot”(Corcoran 12). Saccharin survived the onslaught foranother forty years. It wasn’t until the bittersweet chemical hit themainstream consumer market in such things as diet sodas, pharmaceuticals,and chewing gum that it came under fire again. Scientists suggested thatsaccharin might be a carcinogen in 1951.
In 1958, however, saccharin wasadded to the GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) list, another paradox. In 1972, the results of a long-term study showed that rats fed saccharinhad developed bladder tumors. Subsequently, the Food and DrugAdministration (FDA) removed saccharin from GRAS status and issued aregulation limiting the use of saccharin in foods. Then in 1974, aNational Academy of Science review found that, “Saccharin itself could notbe identified as the cause of the tumors because of possible impurities aswell as problems with experimental design and procedures” (Kennedy 131). Therefore, the FDA decided not to ban saccharin until they received theresults of a study being conducted in Canada. In March 1977, the Canadian study showed that feeding large doses ofsaccharin to pregnant rats and their weanlings produced bladder cancers inthe male offspring.
The Canadians immediately banned saccharin. When theFDA announced its intentions to follow suit, public outcry led to aCongressionally voted eighteen-month moratorium. The American peoplewanted more time to evaluate the results of the study. Shortlythereafter, Congress enacted the Saccharin Study and Labeling Act, whichstayed the FDA’s hand temporarily and ordered a warning label on allsaccharin products: “Use of this product may be hazardous to your health. This product contains saccharin which has been determined to cause cancerin laboratory animals” (Brody 482-483). Nonetheless, the moratorium hascontinually been extended until the present day.
During 1978 and 1979, the National Cancer Institute and FDA conducted apopulation-based study on the possible role of saccharin in causingbladder cancer in humans. In general, people in the study who used anartificial sweetener had no greater risk of bladder cancer than thepopulation as a whole. However, when only the data for heavy users wasexamined, there was some suggestive evidence of an increased risk,particularly in persons who consumed both diet drinks and sugarsubstitutes and who used at least one of these two forms heavily(Carcinogenicity). In the study, heavy use was defined as merely six ormore servings of sugar substitute or two or more 8-ounce servings of dietdrink daily.
Consequently, several studies have found that people withbladder cancer were more likely to have eaten food that containedsaccharin than were people who didn’t have bladder cancer. The NationalCancer Institute compared the diets of 5,800 similar people who weredisease-free to the diets of 3,000 men and women with bladder cancer. Those who reported consuming high levels of saccharin on a daily basiswere found to be at a higher risk for association to poorly differentiatedbladder tumors (Corcoran 13). Saccharine is the most widely used sugar substitute in the world, and yetwe still do not fully understand its effects on the human body. Drinkingone can of diet soda per day can increase the risk of bladder cancer bysixty percent (Goulhart).
The fact that it has never been conclusivelyproven to cause cancer in humans does not make saccharin safe. A dollar’sworth of saccharin will do the sweetening of twenty dollar’s worth ofsugar; for this reason, the FDA will not decisively ban the chemicalsweetener. They are waiting for the results of