When I submitted today’s column, I hadn’t really made up my mind about whether to ditch Splenda or not (if you’re new here, read the related entry). But a few hours after the deadline, Speedy and I had a discussion. It appears that he had been receiving warnings from friends too about Splenda. So even before the column was printed and today’s papers hit the newsstands, we already decided. No more Splenda.
What about the blood sugar scare I had when I was in the hospital last month? Well, we’re simply going to cut down on our sugar consumption. Meaning? If we’re used to a big slice of apple pie, we’ll eat only half as much. One level teaspoon of sugar for our coffee instead of one heaping teaspoonful. Etcetera, etcetera.
Below is the full text of the column.
War over artificial sweeteners
If you’re thinking of jumping into the Splenda bandwagon, or if you already have, you might as well know what has been said and written about the product that pushed Equal, the artificial sweetener pioneer, to the sidelines.
I’m currently a Splenda user, not out of choice but upon doctor’s orders. But my hackles still rise at the thought that I am ingesting a chemical-laden artificial sweetener with my coffee and cakes day in and day out so I felt obliged to educate myself. Whether or not I will ditch Splenda at the end of the process of educating myself remains to be seen. For now, the information I have gathered is scaring me shitless.
When Splenda hit the local market, friends were raving about it and the common tagline was that, unlike other artificial sweeteners, Splenda is made from sugar. We were on vacation in Roxas City a couple of months ago when I first tried Splenda in my coffee. Was it really made from sugar? I was skeptic because the bitter aftertaste was there.
A few weeks after our vacation, my husband and I found ourselves making a big decision. We were in the supermarket and were about to get a 2.5 kilogram pack of sugar from the shelf when we saw this huge bag of Splenda with a photo of a luscious cake printed on the front. That was the first time we realized that Splenda could be used in lieu of sugar for baking cakes, cookies, muffins and all sorts of sweet desserts. See, more than the sugar we put in our coffee, it was the home baked cakes, pies, cookies and muffins that made up the bulk of our sugar intake. We decided we’d try Splenda for baking.
I was happily learning to bake with Splenda and there were no complaints from my children. I was getting used to the aftertaste and I told myself it was only a matter of time before it became negligible. But. BUT. Splenda did something to the taste and texture of cakes and muffins. The sweetness was “bitin”. That was when I started scouring the Internet for information.
The first Web sites I visited were public fora of professional chefs. The consensus was that sugar reacts to the rest of the baking ingredients, particularly butter and flour, in a way that Splenda cannot replicate. A few more searches and Web sites, and I was deep into the advertising and legal wars that went deep into the tagline that Splenda is “made from sugar”.
Unlike its predecessors, Splenda is sucralose, not aspartame. Sucralose is stable under heat and that is why Splenda can be used for baking. But is sucralose a by-product of sugar? What does it mean when the makers of Splenda say it is “made from sugar”? Friends who use Splenda have the impression that Splenda is some kind of skim sugar. You know, real sugar minus the calories. A lot of people would probably be left with the same impression (such a splendid advertising tagline, that “made from sugar” bit) had the makers of Equal not brought a lawsuit against the makers of Splenda. The lawsuit forced Splenda makers to clearly define what “made with sugar” means.
In an article entitled “Makers of Artificial Sweeteners Go to Court” published on April 6, 2007 in The New York Times, MacNeil (a division of Johnson & Johnson), the maker of Splenda, explained that that process of making sucralose starts with cane sugar. Three chlorine atoms are added and sucrose is formed. After processing, the sucrose disappears and there is only the chemical compound called sucralose.
The curious part is that MacNeil has patented many other ways of creating sucralose and only one of those processes begins with sugar. Some of these patented processes start with non-sugars. The public only has the word of MacNeil that the sucralose known as Splenda is made using that process which starts with sugar.
The thing is, there is the implication that the public is to blame if the “made from sugar” tagline proved misleading. According to MacNeil, “made from sugar” is not the same as “made with sugar” and that is why neither sugar nor sucrose is listed among the ingredients of Splenda.
The legal battles unearthed the fact that the intention to mislead has been there from the start. The New York Times article cites records of presentations of MacNeil’s advertising agency about “the decision to position Splenda as not artificial” and that Splenda should be thought of as “sugar without the calories,” putting “significant distance from “artificial sweeteners.”
There is nothing natural about Splenda. It is as artificial as Equal, NutraSweet and all the other sugar substitutes out there. The “made with sugar” tagline has proved misleading to many people but that’s really the intention. When did truth and advertising ever go together? Most times, it is the wrong impression that makes a product such a hit.