The agency announced its intention to remove the sweetener from its hazardous substances list in April, and received no comments opposing the proposal.
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, cakes, biscuits, confectionery, dressings, sauces, processed fruit and sweet spreads.
The EPA proposed removing saccharin from 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 agency said: “EPA granted CCC’s petition based on a review of the evaluations conducted by key public health agencies concerning the carcinogenic and other potential toxicological effects of saccharin and its salts. In addition, EPA assessed the waste generation and management information for saccharin and its salts, concluding that the wastes do not meet the criteria for hazardous waste regulations.”
Saccharin was linked to cancer in trials on rats in the late 1970s, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has since said these studies have little relevance to human consumption of saccharin and gave it an official clean slate in 2000.
According to Leatherhead International, saccharin represents the largest sector of the global intense sweeteners market by volume, with estimated sales of more than 30,000 tonnes in 2009. 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.