The Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety (VKM) has at the request of the Norwegian Food Safety Authority conducted a risk assessment of the intense sweeteners cyclamate, saccharin, neohesperidine DC, steviol glycosides and neotame from soft drinks, “saft” and nectar.
The high intake of added sugar is one of the most important health-related concerns in the diet of children and adolescents.
To reduce the intake of added sugar, beverages with added sweeteners may be considered as a favorable alternative to sugar-containing products.
It has therefore been questioned whether the tax on drinks with added sweeteners should be decreased.
The Norwegian Food Safety Authority has been commissioned by the Ministry of Health and Care Services to assess whether the consumption of drinks with added sweeteners may pose a health risk to the population.
To investigate this issue, it is essential to get new and updated knowledge of the intake levels of sweeteners in the Norwegian population.
In order to provide a basis for answering the question asked by the Ministry, the Norwegian Food Safety Authority requested the Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety (VKM) to calculate the intake of sweeteners in the Norwegian population from consumption of beverages, and evaluate whether the intake exceeds the acceptable daily intake (ADI).
Acceptable daily intake (ADI)
The ADI is an estimate of the amount that may be ingested daily over a lifetime, on a body weight basis, without appreciable health risk. The ADI is therefore expressed as the maximum acceptable intake, usually in term of mg/kg body weight (bw). In the current risk assessment, the ADI values established by EFSA are used.
In cases where EFSA has not established an ADI, the ADI established by SCF are used. Exposure above the ADI value is not desirable.
An occasional exceedance of the ADI represents a reduced safety margin and increases the risk for adverse effects. The ADI is not a threshold for toxicity with immediate onset of adverse effects when exceeded.
The ADI values used in the current risk assessment is presented in the table below.
Exposure scenarios and results
In the current risk assessment, the intake of intense sweeteners from beverages was based on data from national food consumption surveys and actual use levels in 2012 as reported by the producers in October 2013. The intake was calculated for 2-year-old children and 18-70 year old men and women.
Due to lack of new dietary surveys, the other age groups of children and adolescents were not included.
The exposure assessments were performed according to six different scenarios with varying concentrations of added sweeteners and varying consumption of beverages with sweeteners. The actual scenarios used for the respective sweetener were depending on the available data for each sweetener.
For all age groups in all scenarios, the intake of the sweeteners cyclamate, saccharin, neohesperidine DC, steviol glycosides and neotame was below their respective established ADI values.
VKM concludes that there is no major health concern related to the intake of the sweeteners cyclamate, saccharin, neohesperidine DC, steviol glycosides and neotame from the beverage categories included in this risk assessment per today.
VKM further concludes that among young women who are high consumers of beverages with cyclamate, and 2-year-old children who are high consumers of beverages with steviol glycosides, the estimated intake approaches the ADI values.
The high intakes approaching ADI are considered conservative estimates, as the highest reported content of sweetener or the maximum allowed amounts is used. Thus, these estimates are only relevant for the part of the population that are both loyal to beverages with sweeteners and a particular brand of sweetened beverage.
It should be noted that intake of sweeteners from other foods or from tabletop sweeteners is not included in the intake estimates, and that a considerable contribution from these sources cannot be excluded.