Splenda Faces Backlash: Turns Out, Putting Vitamins Into Fake Sugar Doesn’t Make it ‘Essential’

A consumer group is suing the artificial sweetener company for alleged false claims of good health and disease prevention.

Splenda Essentials is a high-end line of the no-calorie, artificial sweetener sucralose Splenda brand, owned by a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary. 

Aug 13, 2012· 1 MIN READ
Kelly Zhou has written on a variety of topics for TakePart, predominantly politics, education, and wildlife.

A nutrition consumer group is suing Splenda Essentials for allegedly misleading consumers about the health benefits of this no-calorie artificial sweetener.

Splenda Essentials, the higher-priced line of the popular sweetener sucralose, is fortified with either B vitamins, antioxidants or fiber. In this class-action lawsuit filed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest on Aug. 9 on behalf of three California consumers, CSPI alleged that Splenda Essentials gives the impression that it will help people lose weight and protect against disease.

MORE: Pick Yes or No: A Sassy Guide to Selecting a Sweetener

Johnson & Johnson, which owns the subsidiary responsible for the Splenda brand, said it did not comment on ongoing litigation, according to NPR.

“It’s ridiculous—but apparently profitable—to claim that bulking up Splenda with vitamins or powdered fiber is going to make it a magical health food,” Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the nonprofit CSPI, said in a statement.

For example, the packaging on Splenda Essentials with Fiber shows fruits high in intact fiber, such as apples and strawberries. Yet the “fiber boost” in the little yellow packets is refined corn fiber, which does not necessarily have the same properties as fiber found in fruits and veggies, CSPI argued.

Labels on Splenda Essentials with B Vitamins indicates that the sugar substitute would help support a “healthy metabolism,” implying that it would help burn additional calories and increase weight loss, claim the plaintiffs.

“I was attracted to the idea of keeping my metabolism going strong, and I’d talk with my clients about how it might shed a pound or two,” co-plaintiff and hair salon owner Barbara Bronson said in a statement. “It’s really terrible that Splenda would try to make us believe something that isn’t true.”

Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, the lawsuit is currently seeking certification as a class action. The CSPI is heavily pushing that simply fortifying an artificial sweetener does not make it “essential” for health.

“It’s an artificial sweetener, not pixie dust,” Jacobson said.

Do you use artificial sweeteners? If so, are you concerned about what's in them?