Monsanto Wants Ok For Sweeter Sweetener

Monsanto Co. is seeking regulatory approval for what it claims to be the next generation of artificial sweeteners - a product 8,000 times sweeter than sugar, but with zero calories.

The maker of NutraSweet said Monday it has petitioned the Food and Drug Administration for approval of a sweetener called neotame for tabletop use.

By this time next year, St. Louis-based Monsanto hopes to ask the FDA to approve neotame for use as a sweetening ingredient in any food or drink sold in the United States.

The sweetness of neotame could mean huge cost savings for food and beverage makers because only extremely small quantities would be needed to sweeten the products, Monsanto spokeswoman Scarlett Lee Foster said.

Analyst Douglas Groh of Merrill Lynch said neotame has been in the works for 16 years.

“It has the potential to replace sugar as well as high-fructose corn syrup in the marketplace,” Groh said. “It could mean potentially, at a minimum, half a billion dollars a year in revenue for Monsanto.”

It was Monsanto that developed aspartame, used in its NutraSweet brand of sweeteners. Aspartame is 200 to 400 times sweeter than sugar and has just a trace of calories. NutraSweet, launched in 1981, is the world’s top-selling brand of artificial sweetener.

Some studies and consumer groups have questioned the safety of aspartame, citing possible links to cancer and other diseases.

“The record on aspartame is very murky and cloudy,” said Rod Leonard, executive director of the Community Nutrition Institute, a consumer group in Washington. “There’s vast reason to be concerned about the type of product (Monsanto) would bring into the market. We plan to look at this one extremely closely.”

Monsanto said both aspartame and neotame are safe.


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