Thursday, July 19, 2007

Who's Sneaking Sucralose in my Food??!!

Pre-post warning: This a bit of a rant. I have no scientific or definitive knowledge that what this post is about is really happening (and for that reason, I've not named names). This post is the result of my recent experiences with some foods from a few different manufacturers/restaurants and my own personal observations and opinions. You know...sorta like an editorial. Also there will be no holier than thou comments about how only buying natural or organic food is the only answer. I already try to do this when possible and I suspect most people do as well or would, if they could all afford to do so. Otherwise, I welcome and encourage civil and thought provoking discussion on this subject!

There has been a lot of press lately about how certain huge food conglomerates are not going to market their breakfast cereals and other types of food and snacks to children until they meet a certain level of nutritional value; including lowering the amount of sugar in their products. This is in response to the overwhelming evidence that all the sugars and fats in these foods are a leading cause to the worldwide epidemic of childhood obesity and these companies want to be seen as proactive before the government begins to crack down ala the trans-fat model. While on the surface this would seem like a good thing, I am beginning to wonder.

Walk down any aisle of the supermarket and you will see more products offered as low in sugar but pick up the package and read the ingredients and you might find something sinister is really going on. You see, that sugar isn't being replaced by better recipes and better ingredients but by a marvel of modern chemistry, Sucralose sold under the trademarked names of Splenda and Altern. So, while the food may be lower in sugar and calories, is pumping our children and ourselves full of a chemically altered sugar really any better than using real sugar?

What is even more disturbing to me is that I am beginning to suspect that some manufacturers and restaurants are using Sucralose and aren't telling. The reason for my paranoia? Well, I can taste the difference when a product uses Sucralose. It leaves a funny bitter taste in my mouth and I get a headache from it. Lately I've been noticing that taste in a lot of foods I have been eating but I'm not seeing Sucralose on the labels. I'm starting to get a bit angry.

This first happened about two months ago during a day filled with meetings and little time to sit and enjoy a leisurely meal. My client decided to have a working lunch and offered to go to a chain take out restaurant around the corner to bring back food. Taking a look at the menu I ordered a chicken garden salad, a bottle of water and a small side of cinnamon apples. The salad was quite good but as soon as I took a bite of the apples I immediately tasted Sucralose. I put the lid back on the apples, put them in the bag my salad had came in and threw them out. Later that evening, when I was back home, I went on the restaurant's website and looked up the nutritional information for the cinnamon apples. The ingredients didn't list Sucralose, but I still suspected it was actually in there because I had tasted it.

This same taste has all the sudden appeared in a favourite all natural cereal bar I eat in the afternoon when I'm craving a chocolate bar or a cookie. I also noticed that I tasted Sucralose in my orange juice (not on the label) and it has even found its way (labeled this time) in my secret guilty pleasure, Tang (along with some other really nasty fake sweetners). I'm also seeing it pop up in labels for foods you wouldn't suspect like baked beans and tomato sauce.

Tonight, I practiced what W calls the rule of two. On my way home from the gym, I drove by the same restaurant chain to pick up a salad and a small side of the cinnamon apples. Two guesses where those apples are right now...