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The Drama Surrounding Splenda

The Drama Surrounding Splenda
By Dr. Janet Starr Hull

The cat’s out of the bag. Splenda’s safety is in question. Although the debate on the safety of sucralose in Splenda primarily focuses on chlorine, the creators of sucralose (Tate & Lyle) and the manufacturer (Johnson & Johnson’s McNeil Nutritionals) both claim absolute safety, making statements like, “Splenda has no known side effects.” Yet the science doesn’t back this up.

Since we depend on the corporations to provide us with the safety data on their products, we must be aware of the claims concerning the presence of chlorine (and the chemicals used to manufacture it) in sucralose and Splenda. As a consumer, don’t forget they are trying to sell you something—it’s simple marketing. Consider the source of the information about the long-term safety of sucralose, and how far into the future of your personal health and safety the marketers have projected. Concerning sucralose, are you willing to risk your health or your child’s health based on clever wording and attractive advertising?

The most important questions we need answered concerning the safety of chlorine in Splenda are:

It’s up to you, the consumer, to consider all the possible information concerning the chemicals you consume. Unfortunately, companies whose jobs do not tolerate overzealous questioning of the safety of their products can hamper your fair access to this information. “Freedom of speech” is not what it used to be. Consider this chapter true drama.

Instant Retaliation for a Splenda Article

In the summer of 2004, a health reporter named Martina Watts from Brighton, England contacted me for some last-minute help concerning an article on Splenda she had written for a local newspaper. Martina’s article, Junk mail highlights a problem junk food,1 is a short but sweet exposé on artificial sweeteners, including Splenda. She sent me the following e-mail:

“I am a nutritionist and health writer from Brighton in the UK. After reading information on Splenda, I summarised the main points in a recent article for my local newspaper, The Argus.

The problem, Tate & Lyle (the developers of Splenda) now want to sue the paper in response to my article on Splenda. They say that sucralose is not a chlorocarbon but a chlorocarbohydrate, which is freely water soluble, is completely safe, has no health risks, does not accumulate in body tissues and does not bioaccumulate.

I wonder if it is possible to speak with you so that I can gather some more facts to defend myself.

I would appreciate your help ASAP--I have until tomorrow morning to formulate a response!”

Many thanks for your help,

Martina Watts

Incredibly, the newspaper was contacted by Tate & Lyle’s attorneys and was given less than two working days to respond to the threat of being sued. They stated they would take action to include the financial loss of Tate & Lyle (including a claim for loss of sales) by their claims of false and defamatory allegations against Splenda.2

In order to avoid legal proceedings, the law firm required the newspaper to:

The attorneys offered the newspaper a bargain to forego payment of damages, and presented the editor an opportunity to “promptly” respond by agreeing to Tate & Lyle’s requests. 

Martina received a phone call from her newspaper editor on Monday morning, August 23, 2004, and had until that same afternoon to provide her sources of reference. “That’s when I e-mailed you,” she said. The newspaper editor passed by their lawyers the sources I supplied to them, and were to get back to the attorneys for Tate & Lyle by the end of the following working day, August 24, 2004. Her original article was taken out of print and off the Internet. Tate & Lyle lawyers wrote and submitted the retraction for the paper to publish. The newspaper condensed the retraction and published the following:

In our 10 August edition, we included an article by Martina Watts, which suggested that the no-calorie sweetener, sucralose, might be harmful to humans. The article described sucralose as a chlorocarbon and claimed it to be toxic. These allegations are entirely untrue.

Sucralose is in fact a water-soluble chlorocarbohydrate. The expert scientists of over 60 regulatory agencies around the world have considered the scientific data and have all concluded that sucralose is entirely safe. Every agency that has considered it, including the Food and Drug Administration in the United States and the Food Standards Agency in the United Kingdom, has approved sucralose for human consumption.

We apologize unreservedly to Tate & Lyle, the manufacturers of sucralose, for these false accusations.”

Martina’s article was well written and to the point, but she seems to be the first “target” for the bullying tactics against anti-Splenda information—tactics I’ve witnessed for over twenty years concerning NutraSweet. Here we go again …

Food For Thought

Twenty to thirty years ago, we could sue companies for making us sick.  Now the corporations sue us for speaking out against them when we’re merely questioning the safety of their products.

Freedom of Speech For A Chosen Few?

Martina had many reasons for writing her article on Splenda, none of which was to “go on a crusade.” She told me she was merely exercising her right to examine research and explore safety concerns. Martina is a professional, trained nutritional therapist and health writer, and was responding to multiple queries from clients about the safety of Splenda. Logically, she began to investigate sucralose. Apparently, that was her mistake!

“It’s problematical if you’re born with a conscience, isn’t it?” stated Martina in reference to the paper’s retraction. “It’s depressing that in this day and age we still don’t have freedom of speech, but I have bounced back.”

As in America, the aggressive mass marketing of products is almost inescapable and brings to mind who, exactly, has the right to “push” information on whom. Martina writes this additional concern:

“A Splenda promotion was sent out via the weekly newspaper, telling people to say yes, yes, yes, YES to more sweetness in their lives.” 

Martina’s kids picked up the sample and wanted to taste it. “If something is pushed through my letterbox, it invites comment, but if they don’t like the comment, they call it libel,” said Martina. “It’s an uphill struggle when sweeteners are marketed as a desirable lifestyle choice when they clearly are not.”

The irony of her situation is hard to miss. The companies can “force-feed” their product and literature right into her home, but she has no right to explore their claims.

An example of “turnabout is fair play”:  In the October 5, 2003 issue of The Dallas Morning News, humor columnist Dave Berry wrote an article that Martina Watts would appreciate reading about now.3 Tired of the onslaught of calls from telemarketers, Berry decided to switch roles and began calling them. He published the telephone number of the National Do Not Call Registry and the American Teleservices Association (ATA) and encouraged his readers to call them as much as they had been called and at the same inappropriate times of day. They called the ATA so much, the telemarketing company begrudgingly disconnected their phone number.  

Martina and Dave Berry have something in common: they’ve noticed that corporations appear to have the right to invade your homes and your mailboxes with their products, dis-information and propaganda, while you appear to have lost the right to defend yourself and to publicly question your safety. Are companies pushing their products on you, while taking away your right to say no, no, no, NO?

As consumers, we need to become aware of any restriction of information to stay in control of our personal health.

By the time I had contacted Martina to see how I could help with her problem, it was too late to stop her local paper from printing the Tate & Lyle retraction. But she shared some incredible information to share with you in hopes of setting the record straight.

If history repeats itself concerning the possible dangers of sucralose, this information will be kept secret, and future media challenges will remain oppressed by legal threats. But if we choose to change this direction, we shall retain our freedom of speech and our right to publicly communicate product safety disputes.

To all the bright and insightful journalists out there, to all those representing each of our individual rights to information and product safety challenges, don’t lose heart! You may save hundreds of lives along your rocky journey to the truth.

1. Watts M. Junk mail highlights a problem junk food, The Argus. Argus, Brighton BN1 8AR. August 10, 2004.

2. OLSWANG. Law Offices: representatives for Tate & Lyle plc. London. WC1V 6XX. August 20, 2004.

3. Berry D. The Dallas Morning News. pg. 5E. October 5, 2003.

Posted on February 7, 2005 in Politics | Link To This Entry | Comments (0)


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