Saccharin—the sweet and sour saga

At a time when the American public has a widespread concern regarding the food it eats, and a principal concern of the American public is food additives, no food ingredient has been the subject of such prolonged research, such public emotion, such industry support, and specific Congressional action, as saccharin. This focus on saccharin highlights the basic deficiencies in the criteria by which food ingredients are evaluated for safety, particularly when the spector of cancer hangs overhead. The existing evaluation of all aspects of the safety of saccharin has caused an improvement in the safety evaluation proceedings and the benefits have impacted throughout the food industry, its regulators, and the scientific disciplines they rely upon.

Saccharin was discovered in 1879. While various types of studies were performed from time to time, until 1950 no findings were reported that raised any serious questions about the safety of saccharin. However, a chronic study by Fitzhugh and coworks reported in 1951 produced inconclusive results which encouraged the debate on the safety of saccharin.

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