F.D.A. approves high-intensity sweetener

by Jeff Gelski
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WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration has approved advantame, a high-intensity sweetener, for use as a sweetener and flavor enhancer in foods, except meat and poultry, the agency said May 19.

Ajinomoto applied to the F.D.A. for advantame’s use in food in 2009. Advantame, derived from aspartame and vanillin, is an artificial flavor that has been shown to enhance flavors such as dairy, fruit, citrus and mint, according to Ajinomoto North America, Inc., Itasca, Ill. It has been shown to mask the off taste of alternative sweeteners such as Rebaudioside A, sucralose or acesulfame potassium (Ace-K).

According to the Calorie Control Council, advantame is about 20,000 times sweeter than sugar and 100 times sweeter than aspartame. It has 0 calories.

Australia and New Zealand previously approved advantame, according to Ajinomoto North America. Approvals are pending in the European Union and Japan.

“We are all very excited about advantame,” said Brendan Naulty, senior vice-president of Ajinomoto North America. “The clean sugar-like taste means that it blends very well with sugar and other caloric sweeteners, providing food and beverage companies with an alternative that has meaningful nutritional advantages.”

To determine the safety of advantame, the F.D.A. reviewed data from 37 animal and human studies designed to identify possible toxic effects, including effects on the immune, reproductive and developmental, and nervous systems, said Captain Andrew Zajac, U.S. Public Health Service, director of the Division of Petition Review at the F.D.A.

Advantame is related chemically to aspartame, according to the F.D.A. People who have phenylketonuria (PKU), a rare genetic disorder, have trouble metabolizing phenylalanine, a component of both aspartame and advantame. Foods with aspartame must bear an information statement about the presence of phenylalanine. Foods with advantame do not need the statement because advantame is much sweeter than aspartame and only a small amount is needed to reach the same level of sweetness.

The F.D.A. has approved advantame for use in such applications as baked foods, non-alcoholic beverages such as soft drinks, chewing gum, confections and frostings, frozen desserts, gelatins and puddings, jams and jellies, processed fruit and fruit juices, toppings, and syrups.
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