Repeal of Saccharin Warning Label Criticized

Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D., executive director of the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest, had the following comment on Congress' repeal of the warning label on saccharin-containing products.


Lawmakers generally oppose legislating through the appropriations process, which does not allow for substantive inquiries and hearings. But apparently Congress had no qualms about skipping hearings and using the Health and Human Services Appropriations Bill (HR 4577) to eliminate the warning label on products containing saccharin.

The food industry claims that the male rats' urinary bladders, in which saccharin causes cancer, are uniquely sensitive to saccharin. However, many other studies in both rats and mice show that saccharin causes cancer in other organs. Moreover, the single best epidemiological study, conducted by the National Cancer Institute, found an association between the consumption of artificial sweeteners and an increased risk of bladder cancer.

The only committee of non-governmental scientists — the National Toxicology Program's Board of Scientific Counselors — to review the data on saccharin concluded in 1997 by a vote of 4-3 that saccharin still should be considered a cancer-causing chemical. However, panels of government scientists ignored that Board's views and voted in split decisions that saccharin did not pose a cancer risk.

My advice to consumers is to play it safe and continue to avoid saccharin.