Artificial sweeteners need to be safe for consumption as they are added as ingredients to food.Artificial sweeteners have a huge amount of sweetening power impart a sweet taste similar to natural sugar, but they have much fewer calories. The most used artificial sweeteners are aspartame, saccharin, acesulfame K, sodium cyclamate and sucralose.Steviol glycosides, which are extracted from the leaves of the stevia plant is the latest sweetener that has been approved for use in foods.
Testing foods and labels
There are a number of approved artificial sweeteners but they need to be used in the right composition and purity and at levels approved by food regulators so food testing NABL recognised laboratories test foods. Artificial sweeteners are also tested for their quality as some of them may be of variable quality. Food testing laboratories use several types of analysis to determine the content and purity of the sweeteners. Testing labs also offer advice on labelling requirements for these sweeteners which are required by law. For example in India there is a labelling requirement for Aspartame as it is not approved for use in children’s foods and people who suffer from the disease known as phenylketonurics. So food testing ensures children’s foods are free of Aspartame. If foods contain Aspartame as an ingredient then consumers must be able to see the label “not recommended for children and in phenylketonurics” on such foods as aspartame can become toxic.
New sweet product testing
Food testing laboratories also test artificial sweeteners for sensory determination especially in new products. Since steviol glycosides have just been approved and if food manufacturers choose to use them in their products to replace other sweeteners then testing laboratories will determine how much content and levels of the sweetener may be used depending on the sweetening intensity of the steviol glycosides. The type and amount of sweeteners to be used also depends on the type of processing used in the foods. For example Neotame is approved for use in soft drinks but not other food products. Therefore, other food products have to be tested to ensure that neotame has not entered the foods through the manufacturing facility where other products that use artificial sweeteners are also manufactured.
Approved sweetener testing
The FSSAI has approved the following artificial sweeteners, Saccharin sodium, Aspartame (methyl ester), Acesulfame potassium, Sucralose, and Neotame.All countries around the world have different maximum usable dose regulations for artificial sweeteners and the food products that they can be used in. Imported products like chocolates, beverages, jams, jellies,chewing gum or confectioneries that come into India need to be in compliance with Indian food regulations. Food testing labs carry out analysis of these imported products to ensure that only permitted artificial sweeteners have been used and within the permitted limits. For example saccharin may be used in carbonated water, chocolates and traditional Indian sweets, sugar-free and sugar based confectioneries and in bubble gums. If saccharin is used in any other foods then the import consignment could be rejected.