The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has taken aim at McNeil Nutritionals’ Splenda Essentials sweetener in a lawsuit filed in a California district court, alleging that the fortified sweetener’s marketing violates consumer protection laws.
The lawsuit , which seeks class action status, alleges that the marketing of Splenda-brand sucralose fortified with added B vitamins, fiber, or antioxidants misleads consumers into thinking the products provide added health benefits.
The Splenda Essentials website claims that added B vitamins mixed with the sweetener “help support a healthy metabolism”, and the plaintiffs claim that along with other messages on the website, this might lead some consumers to believe that the B vitamin-fortified sweetener could help with weight loss.
“A reasonable consumer’s expectation is that a “healthy metabolism” will help them lose weight by metabolizing fat and carbohydrates,” the court documents say. “No reliable studies show that B vitamin supplementation promotes weight loss or weight management in any amount, including the amount in Splenda Essentials. Furthermore, most Americans are not suffering from deficiencies of these B vitamins.”
The CSPI, which is helping to bring the suit, says that supplementation with antioxidant nutrients like vitamins C and E generally has not been shown to have the same benefits as consumption of fruit and vegetables in clinical trials.
As for the one gram of corn fiber in the fiber-fortified version, it said: “There is no scientific consensus that a refined fiber functions like the intact fibers found in whole foods such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes.”
A spokesperson for McNeil Nutritionals told FoodNavigator-USA that the company was aware of the case, but did not comment on litigation.
The company sells the fortified sweetener range at an average premium of about 25% compared to its non-fortified Splenda sweetener, the court documents say. The suit seeks damages, as well as an injunction to stop the company from continuing with its current marketing.