Saccharin was first identified as a potential human carcinogen by the EPA’s Carcinogen Assessment Group in 1980, but it now says there is not sufficient evidence to suggest that the sweetener is linked to cancer in humans. Saccharin is a non-nutritive sweetener about 300 times sweeter than sugar, primarily used in the food industry to sweeten diet soft drinks, juices, candy, jellies and gum.
The EPA has proposed the removal of saccharin from the hazardous substances lists after receiving a petition from the Calorie Control Council (CCC), a trade association that represents the low-calorie and reduced-fat food and beverage industry. The CCC pointed out that the National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer have both already reviewed the scientific data and removed saccharin from their lists of toxic substances as a result.
The EPA said it reviewed these agencies’ evaluations and concluded: “Based on the conclusions by these public health agencies that saccharin and its salts are not reasonably expected to be human carcinogens, as well as EPA’s own assessment of the waste generation and management information, in April 2010 EPA proposed granting CCC’s petition in this rule.”
Saccharin was linked to cancer in trials on rats in the late 1970s, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has since stated these studies have little relevance to human consumption of saccharin and gave it an official clean slate in 2000.
The EPA proposal will remain open for comments for 60 days.
According to Leatherhead International, saccharin represents the largest sector of the global intense sweeteners market by volume, with estimated annual sales of more than 30,000 tonnes. Asia is the most important market for saccharin, with usage in the US and Europe remaining fairly low, due to a preference for more expensive products such as sucralose, aspartame and acesulfame-K.