Feds drop saccharin from the list of cancer-causing chemicals

But the safety debate continues.

Topics: Cancer,

It may still taste vile, but saccharin is no longer considered a cancer-causing substance by the government agency in charge of monitoring such things.

The artificial sweetener was placed on the National Toxicology Program’s list of carcinogens in 1981, shortly after it was shown to cause bladder tumors in rats. Saccharin has been dropped from the latest list of cancer-causing chemicals because of recent studies indicating that it’s not dangerous to humans.

Government researchers “discovered, basically, that the urine of a rat and the urine of a human being [were] so different” that people were unlikely to develop tumors like those that saccharin caused in rodents, says Bill Grigg, spokesperson for the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, which oversees the list.

The Calorie Control Council, a group supported by the diet-food industry, had pushed hard for the studies that exonerated saccharin. The council said it would now lobby for the elimination of warning labels on foods containing the sweetener.

You Might Also Like

Those labels contain the appetizing admonition that saccharin may be hazardous to your health, because it caused cancer in lab animals. Congress required those labels, but prohibited the Food and Drug Administration from taking saccharin off the market. It has remained, throughout the controversy, the most popular artificial sweetener.

Should the labeling requirement be eliminated, consumers will probably see saccharin in many more products, said Lyn Nabors, executive vice president of the Calorie Control Council.

By using combinations of artificial sweeteners such as saccharin and aspartame (better known by the trademarked name NutraSweet), manufacturers can make foods that taste better than those with only one sweetener, Nabors contends. Until now, manufacturers have been leery about creating a new product that would have to bear a warning about bladder cancer, she says.

Not everyone is happy about the government’s decision to take saccharin off the carcinogen list. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, which monitors
government nutrition policy, says saccharin remains a public health hazard.

Most studies dealing with the differences between human and rat urine have been directly sponsored by, or performed at the behest of, the diet food industry, argues Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Those studies put forth an interesting theory, says Jacobson. But other studies have shown associations between saccharin consumption and higher bladder cancer rates in humans. Saccharin also has been linked to ovarian, skin and uterine cancer in animals, Jacobson says.

Sugar, anyone?

David McGuire is a reporter in Washington.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>