Sweetener production stopped due to high costs

By Sarah Hills

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Raw material costs Food additive Food and drug administration

Danisco has stopped selling the sweetener alitame and has withdrawn
its Food and Drug Administration (FDA) petition for it to be used
in food in America, citing uneconomic production.

The withdrawal of the petition was based purely on economic considerations following an increase in raw material costs, according to Mika Koivistoinen, a spokesman for Danisco Sweeteners.

He said that alitame is safe to use, with approval in countries including Australia, New Zealand, China, but Danisco has stopped production and sold all the alitame it produced.

The low-calorie sweetener, which is also known as Aclame, is said to have an extremely sugar-like taste without any bitterness and is "ideal for use in beverages" as well as baked goods, dairy products and other confectionary.

Koivistoinen told FoodNavigator-usa.com: "Alitame is a very good tasting product and is approved in a number of countries.

However, high raw material costs have made production uneconomical.

"Due to these economic reason, we have decided not to take our FDA petition further.

"We do not have at this time plans to move forward with alitame."

Koivistoinen declined to comment on what the problematic raw materials were.

A Food Additive Petition was submitted to the FDA in 1986 by Pfizer Central Research, proposing that the food additive regulations be amended to provide for the safe use of alitame as a sweetening agent or flavoring in food.

The sweetener is now exclusive to Danisco.

The petition was pending but it has now been withdrawn by Danisco "without prejudice to a future filing", according to an FDA notice.

A spokesperson for the FDA would not comment on the withdrawal but told FoodNavigator-usa.com: "The fact that there is no approval for alitame in the US does mean it is unlawful to use it in food."

Counting costs Other sweeteners have also ceased because of costs.

In 2006 Arla Foods halted production of the sweetener tagatose, a low-calorie, low-GI sugar replacer, saying it was not possible to identify a volume potential to justify continued investments.

Nutrilab, a subsidiary of Belgian company Damhert, stepped in and bought all Arla's remaining supply.

Then, once the European patent on the tagatose molecule expired in August 2007, it started producing its own tagatose using an enzymatic process and the raw material galactose, a waste product from a biofuels manufacturing group.

Nutrilab expects to have a full-scale industrial plant producing some 10,000 tonnes a year in operation by September 2009.

Christian Vastenavond, director of R&D and international operations told FoodNavigator.com in March that Arla's chemical process was very expensive, creating considerable waste and requiring a lot of cleaning.

However, the enzymatic process is said to cost a fraction of Arla's.

A recent report by Freedonia revealed that the US sweetener market alone is poised to increase 4 percent per year at present, to reach over $1bn in 2010.

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