I’ve just spent some time researching the kerfuffle over Splenda. This is an artificial sweetener (generic name sucralose), which is increasingly popular. Unlike aspartame or saccharine, it doesn’t have a nasty aftertaste and can be used in baking since it doesn’t break down with heat. The manufacturer’s website is at http://www.splenda.com/
You make it by beating the hell out of sugar and chlorinating it.
The sugar people, understandably, don’t like Splenda. Recently they’ve gone after Splenda’s manufacturer for the ad phrase “made from sugar so it tastes like sugar”, arguing that this is misleading since Splenda is not a natural substance but a heavily processed chemical one. This is just FUD and bullshit pretty obviously; “natural” is a meaningless noise. They have a website ( http://www.thetruthaboutsplenda.com/ ) and a lawsuit, and they’re getting all sorts of news coverage. They say things like “It hasn’t been proven to be safe” when of course that’s not how science works, you can’t prove that. Lots of weasel words. You can smell the panic. It’s similar to the anti margarine campaigns the butter people put on during the last century.
The sad part is that they’ve got the Center for Science in the Public Interest on their side. My respect for the CSPI has been declining as they’ve become nannyish and publicity-hungry, but this is the last straw. I can’t see how saying something is “made from sugar” when it is, in fact, made from sugar is fraudulent, or why the CSPI needs to be involved when there’s no evidence that Splenda is bad for anyone. The case revolves around the idea of “natural” food which is religious and not scientific. “Natural” is a word used by health food store cranks, not nutrition professionals or biochemists. I’m not sure whether the CSPI is gradually becoming psychoceramic or has been bought out by a donation from Big Sugar, but in any case I can’t consider them authoritative now. It’s shameful to play on peoples’ ignorance about chemistry and nutrition to grab headlines.
If someone can find a critique of sucralose that is not riddled with the “natural” fallacy, scientifically illiterate blather about deadly chlorine, psychoceramic typography, ads for another product, or plain appeals to fear I’d be interested in seeing it.