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Alternate Names

Sweet 'N Low


A substance used as an artificial sweetener that has a long history in the United States. It was discovered by the chemist, Constantin Fahlberg, when he tasted a very sweet compound on his hands after working with a coal tar derivative in his lab. Saccharin is between three hundred and five hundred times sweeter than table sugar. Due to its bitter aftertaste, it is often blended with other artificial sweeteners. It is widely used in diet foods and beverages as it provides no calories and passes through into urine. During the first World War, saccharin became widely used and in 1907, studies on the health effects of saccharin began. There have been many back and forth exchanges among the FDA, USDA and commercial producers of artificial sweeteners about the possible carcinogenic effects of saccharin consumption. These debates have continued all the way through 2008 and still no consensus has been reached (see Additional Information).

Saccharin - Quick Stats

Sweet 'N Low

Allergy Information








Additional Information

In the early 1900's saccharin was viewed as adulterated and an illegal substitution of a valued nutrient - sugar. However in 1912 it was deemed not harmful. In 1977 the FDA stated that the use of saccharin should be banned as it had been found to cause bladder tumors in laboratory animals according to a Canadian study. There was a huge outcry from the commercial producers of artificial sweeteners and so they delayed the ban but required that a warning label be placed on all items containing saccharin. This label was subsequently removed in 2000 due to findings that the rodent studies performed could not be carried over to humans. Numerous other tests have been performed, both in a clinical setting and in population studies and as of 2008 no clear decisions have been made. Many studies showed tumerogenic activity but it was possibly refuted due to the high levels of chemical contaminants found in the saccharin used for the studies. Other studies showed correlations between saccharin consumption and tumor rates but only in certain populations (such as only men or only women) but none of the independent studies have results that agree.

Found In

used as a tabletop sweetener (brand name Sweet'N Low), diet beverages, soft drinks, diet candies/foods, foods marketed to diabetics

Possible Health Effects

See Additional Information Section

Allergy Information


Online Resources/Related

Print Resources

Copyright April 1, 2011 Be Food Smart, Updated April 29, 2012

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