Consumers and health authorities around the world, including in India, remain concerned about the consumption of sugar. In fact, concerns around sugar in our diet have overtaken that of fat and salt.
With growing policy pressures to address the overconsumption of sugar, along with the rising epidemic of obesity and non-communicable diseases, the food industry is working to deliver solutions through healthier product innovation and reformulation particularly around reducing the sugar content in food and beverage (F&B) products. The industry has invested much of its efforts and resources in developing low-calorie sugar alternatives like Low/Non-Calorie Sweeteners (LNCS).
LNCS help consumers reduce their sugar intake while providing them with the option to maintain the enjoyment of sweet-tasting food and drinks with practically no calories.
However, the reputation of LNCS has been constantly challenged with alleged associations with weight gain and cancers - in spite of current scientific findings suggesting otherwise. This negative narrative is mainly influenced by misinformation and pseudoscience.
As part of its efforts to address the misinformation that has driven the negative reputation of LNCS, FIA recently organised a seminar on “Sweeteners – Innovative Ingredients for a Better Health” on 14 December 2018 in partnership with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) in Mumbai, India.
Attended by over 500 representatives from the food industry, nutrition groups and NGOs, the seminar focused on creating awareness among the stakeholders about LNCS, and debunking the myths associated with it and their impact on diet and health.
At the seminar, Mr Steven Bartholomeusz, FIA’s Policy Director, spoke about the need to look at science-based evidence in making policy decisions concerning the use of sweeteners. In particular, he pointed to how the safety of LNCS has been assessed and approved by a number of regulatory institutions worldwide, including the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), prior to their use in foods.
He also presented studies and evidence to debunk some of the more common pieces of misinformation related to sweeteners, including how LNCS are not safe, cause cancer, provide no health benefits and can lead to weight gain.
Following which, Mr Bartholomeusz moderated a panel discussion, “Substitution of sugar with Low/Non- Calorie Sweeteners: Way Forward from Public Health Perspective in curbing NCDs” which included panelists like Ms Naaznin Hussain, President of the Indian Dietetic Association – Mumbai Chapter and industry representatives.
While Ms Hussain spoke about the sweet tooth of Indian consumers and how LNCS could be a viable alternative to sugar, industry representatives from Coca Cola, PepsiCo and Tate & Lyle highlighted the innovative reformulation efforts by the F&B industry in India in providing consumers with options that contain less sugar but still have their sweetness retained.
Mr Bartholomeusz said, “LNCS are an important tool in product reformulation and supporting industry efforts in addressing the growing public health challenges in India and around the world. The seminar provided a good opportunity for us to not only understand better how LNCS work as an alternative to sugar but also be educated on the industry’s commitment to providing consumers with a wider portfolio of healthier food and beverages.”
To support science-based evidence on the safe use of LNCS, FIA has produced a white paper titled “The Case for a Little Sweetness: The Role of Low/Non-Calorie Sweeteners on Health” which serves to debunk the health- and safety-related myths sweeteners have been commonly linked with. It is the first in a series of communication tools FIA is developing with subject matter experts, to explore how sweeteners impact diet and health