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Generation Green Letter

Generation Green is an advocacy group made up of parents and other concerned citizens throughout the United States favoring corporate and governmental policies to secure children grow up protected from exposure to harmful toxins. They have taken a public stand against Splenda, and sent the following letter to the Federal Trade Commission lodging a formal complaint against their advertising practices, as well as the toxic quality of the chlorine used to manufacture Splenda.

January 13, 2005 Generation Green P.O. Box 7027 Evanston, IL 60201

Division of Advertising Practices Bureau of Consumer Protection Federal Trade Commission 600 Pennsylvania Avenue Washington, DC 20580

Re: Misleading Advertising of Sucralose/Splenda

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing on behalf of Generation Green and its member families. We work with parents and other concerned citizens to advocate for corporate and governmental policies that will allow children to grow up protected from exposure to toxins. We place great importance on protecting the consumer's right to know about chemical exposure, particularly related to food so that people are able to make informed decisions, especially with respect to their children's health. With this in mind, we are writing to lodge a formal complaint and seek the Federal Trade Commission's investigation of advertising by McNeil Nutritionals LLC, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson (collectively "Company") for the artificial sweetener Sucralose under the brand-name Splenda ("Splenda").

Our investigation suggests that the Company has no reasonable basis for its marketing slogan "made from SUGAR so it tastes like SUGAR," nor can it substantiate claims that the Splenda is "natural." To the contrary, Splenda is a chemically created product in which sugar molecules are chemically manipulated through chlorination and other processes so as to be completely unrecognizable as sugar. The legal requirement of advertising substantiation- that advertisers and ad agencies have a reasonable basis for advertising claims before they are disseminated-is especially important when consumer health and safety is at issue, such as in a food additive like Splenda.

Without substantiation of its marketing claims, Splenda now holds over a third of the sweetener market only six years after its approval as a food additive by the FDA in 1998. This remarkable growth is attributed to the perception that Splenda is natural and sugar-based. This perception is the result of the Company's intentional efforts to mislead consumers regarding the product. The slogan "made from SUGAR so it tastes like SUGAR" seeks to mislead and confuse consumers into believing that Splenda is a natural product of sugar. It is a deceptive claim. The first step in manufacturing Splenda is the chlorination of sugar. This process chemically changes the structure of the sugar molecules by substituting three chlorine atoms for three hydroxyl groups. Following chlorination, a further chemical process is applied using phosgene, a poisonous gas described by the Centers for Disease Control as a major industrial chemical used to make plastics and pesticides. Notably, the Splenda label does not and cannot list sugar as an ingredient, as sugar is not recognizable in the final product.(1)

Nonetheless, the Company encourages consumer confusion by continually highlighting the word "sugar" in its advertising campaign, seeking to bolster the false association between Splenda and sugar in consumers' minds. Interestingly, the Company's own scientists have conceded in technical journals that any casual link between sucrose and the sweet taste of Splenda is "impossible to prove." Although the Company does not label Splenda as "natural," its broader advertising efforts effectively have conveyed that product as natural. Consider:

* The Philadelphia Inquirer published an article in February 2004 where a physician specializing in internal medicine advised the mother of a saccharin user to consider Equal/Nutrasweet or "the natural low calorie sweetener Splenda."

* In the Sun Herald (Biloxi, MS), a syndicated food columnist described Splenda as a "natural, nonnutritive sweetener."

* When asked by a consumer online whether Splenda could be harmful, Dr. Arthur Agatston, the well-known cardiologist and author of the South Beach Diet, said "Splenda is natural."

This is a dangerous development, as the product is anything but natural.

Recently, the Company expanded its campaign advertising Splenda as a sugar product, now selling Splenda as a sugar substitute for use in baking. The marketing of this new use is an effort to further confuse consumers and reinforce the notion that Splenda is a sugar product. This expanded campaign also is likely to result in the ingestion of Splenda in significantly larger quantities-not simply as a food additive but as a major ingredient to fundamental foodstuffs. Notably, with the introduction of this baking product, Splenda is now cutting into the market share not only of artificial sweeteners but of natural sweeteners like sugar itself. The fact that Splenda is now competing directly with natural sweeteners suggests the extraordinary success of the Company's deceptive advertising campaign that Splenda is natural and sugar-based.

Many of the Splenda ads focus on images of children; these ads convey the message that Splenda is a better, more natural product for children than other artificial sweeteners. These ads aim to encourage children to eat low sugar products suggesting that "low sugar" and "with Splenda" means the product is healthier. In one television commercial, a child's voice says "Splenda and spice and everything nice. That's what little girls are made of." over video of children playing. This advertisement clearly equates Splenda with sugar (replacing "sugar" with "Splenda" in a common expression) and emphasizes the use of the product for children.

Moreover, Splenda's product expansion has focused on creating "low sugar" products like snack foods, breakfast cereals and soda. These products are the types of products children are most likely to choose for themselves. Together, this product expansion marks a clear intention by the Company to target, not only parents, but also children, a less discerning audience, with its misleading advertising.

If, as there appears, the company has no basis for suggesting that Splenda and sugar are closely linked and equally natural products, the FTC should halt the Company's extensive marketing campaign and require the Company to provide substantiation for its marketing claims or disseminate accurate information to its consumers.

Thank you for your immediate attention to this matter.

(1) Instead, Splenda's listed ingredients are dextrose, maltodextrin, and the synthetic sweetening compound 4-chloro-4deoxy-alpha-D-galactopyranosyl-1, 6dichloro-1, 6-dideoxy-beta-D-fructofuranoside.

Generation Green CONTACT: Bob Brandon, Project Director of Generation Green, +1-202-331-1550

Posted on February 23, 2005 in News | Link To This Entry | Comments (0)


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