Artificial Sweetener Cyclamate Is Banned from U.S. Consumer Markets

Evidence that consumption of the chemical cyclamate, used as an artificial sweetener, might be harmful to human health led to its removal from the U.S. marketplace. It remains a banned food additive in the United States.

Summary of Event

Robert Finch, the secretary of health, education, and welfare Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, U.S.;food safety (HEW), announced that food products containing cyclamates would be banned from U.S. markets effective February 1, 1970. The ban was made official after Finch’s announcement was published in the Federal Register on October 21 (34 FR 17063). The decision to ban the chemical was made after several scientific studies revealed that certain amounts of cyclamates were harmful to chicken embryos and rats. Sucaryl
Sweeteners, artificial
Food;government regulation
[kw]Artificial Sweetener Cyclamate Is Banned from U.S. Consumer Markets (Oct. 21, 1969)
[kw]Sweetener Cyclamate Is Banned from U.S. Consumer Markets, Artificial (Oct. 21, 1969)
[kw]Cyclamate Is Banned from U.S. Consumer Markets, Artificial Sweetener (Oct. 21, 1969)
[kw]U.S. Consumer Markets, Artificial Sweetener Cyclamate Is Banned from (Oct. 21, 1969)
[kw]Consumer Markets, Artificial Sweetener Cyclamate Is Banned from U.S. (Oct. 21, 1969)
Sweeteners, artificial
Food;government regulation
[g]North America;Oct. 21, 1969: Artificial Sweetener Cyclamate Is Banned from U.S. Consumer Markets[10510]
[g]United States;Oct. 21, 1969: Artificial Sweetener Cyclamate Is Banned from U.S. Consumer Markets[10510]
[c]Laws, acts, and legal history;Oct. 21, 1969: Artificial Sweetener Cyclamate Is Banned from U.S. Consumer Markets[10510]
[c]Health and medicine;Oct. 21, 1969: Artificial Sweetener Cyclamate Is Banned from U.S. Consumer Markets[10510]
[c]Trade and commerce;Oct. 21, 1969: Artificial Sweetener Cyclamate Is Banned from U.S. Consumer Markets[10510]
Finch, Robert
Ley, Herbert, Jr.

Prior to the development of artificial sweeteners, only natural sugars, in forms such as sugarcane, corn syrup, maple sugar, and honey, were used in food products. These sugars are high in calories and are unhealthy for those with medical conditions such as diabetes. Artificial sweeteners have much lower caloric contents than natural sugars and can be used by consumers who cannot safely ingest sugar. Only a small percentage of the U.S. population must abstain from sugar, but many consumers choose to purchase foods and beverages produced with low-calorie sugar substitutes as part of weight-control programs.

A growth in consumption of artificial sweeteners would coincide with a reduction in the market for sugar. This shift threatened sugar producers, who supported testing and research on the artificial substances to determine if they might have adverse physiological effects on consumers.

Because some consumers need to restrict or discontinue consumption of sugar for medical reasons and other consumers wish to reduce caloric intake, a substantial market for artificial sweeteners had developed in the United States by the mid-1960’s. Ideally, a sugar substitute should taste identical to sugar, perform as sugar does in food preparation, and not adversely affect the health of those consuming it. Chemists have attempted to create such a product, but time and research have shown that many artificial sweeteners have limited merits.

In the two decades prior to 1969, cyclamates had been the primary substitute for sugar in diet-type food products. A cyclamate is an artificial (chemically produced) salt of sodium or calcium. Cyclamates have a sweet taste similar to that of sugar and contribute virtually no calories to the foods and beverages in which they are used. By the late 1960’s, the consumption of diet soft drinks, diet fruit jams and jellies, and table sugar substitutes had become widespread. Using cyclamates as sweeteners, soft drinks were made calorie free, and canned fruits and jams were produced with significantly reduced caloric contents.

Diet soft drink producers used more than half the cyclamates produced in the United States and, according to BusinessWeek, collectively manufactured products worth $420 million at retail prices in 1969. Of all soft drinks sold in 1969, 15 percent were diet drinks. These drinks thus had substantial effects on the financial performance of manufacturers.

Producers of artificial sweeteners pursued development of their products because they believed there was a potentially large market of diet-conscious people who would willingly pay for the sweetening agents. The possibility for large profits was a motivating factor for producers, as artificial sweeteners sold for more than four times as much as granulated sugar. Furthermore, it was expected that consumers would eagerly purchase low-calorie prepared canned foods and beverages. A government advisory panel for the Food and Drug Administration Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimated in 1968 that 75 percent of the U.S. population consumed artificial sweeteners and that 70 percent of these sweeteners were used in soft drinks. At that time, about half a dozen companies were marketing brands of artificial sweeteners for table use, most of which contained cyclamates. Brand names of the sweetening products included Sugarcane 99, Crystal Sweet, Sweet’N Low, Sweetness & Light, Zero-Cal, and Sugarine. Diet soft drinks were sold under brand names such as Diet Pepsi, Fresca, Like, Tab, and Diet-Rite.

As new food and pharmaceutical products are developed, the FDA must approve their distribution in the United States. Once products have been approved for distribution, researchers may continue to test them to better observe the physiological effects the products have on humans. Such research is often initiated when a group or organization suggests that there may be a potential hazard as a result of consumption. In 1958, an amendment to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (1938) Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (1938) known as the Delaney Amendment Delaney Amendment (1958) was passed. It required that food additives that were shown to cause cancer Carcinogens in either animals or humans be removed from the consumer market.

Research concerning the effects of consumption of cyclamates occurred throughout the time they were marketed in the United States. Several preliminary research panels concurred that consumption of cyclamates was safe. In December, 1968, a government advisory panel, in a report to the FDA, concluded that no research warranted a reduction from the current recommended consumption limit of 5 grams (the equivalent of more than three quarts of artificially sweetened beverages) of cyclamates per day. The FDA responded with a more guarded recommendation to the public that research was ongoing and that, pending results, consumers should consume no more than 50 milligrams per day. The panel reported that according to soft drink labeling information, a 12-ounce can contained between 0.3 and 0.6 grams of cyclamates. Even one soft drink would exceed the lower recommended limit.

In April, 1969, changes in labeling of products containing cyclamates were recommended by the FDA to allow consumers to more easily stay within the safe consumption levels. At that time, concern about safe intake levels was primarily in response to the knowledge that consuming more than 5 grams of cyclamates per day has a laxative effect on humans and to the results of laboratory experiments that had shown liver changes in animals that consumed cyclamates.

Early in October, 1969, researchers hired by Abbott Laboratories Abbott Laboratories , which had manufactured more than half of all cyclamates sold in the United States (since 1950), found possibly malignant tumors in rats that were fed high doses of cyclamates. This information was passed along to HEW through reports from the National Cancer Institute and Abbott Laboratories itself. As a result of the reports and as advised by the National Academy of Sciences, Robert Finch announced on October 21 that cyclamates would be removed from U.S. markets. FDA commissioner Herbert Ley, Jr., in turn removed cyclamate from the FDA’s GRAS (“generally recognized as safe”) list on October 30.


Surprise was the immediate reaction to the ban by manufacturers of cyclamates and of foods and beverages containing cyclamates. Earlier in 1969, new products containing cyclamates had been introduced to the consumer market. Other products were continuing to be developed, and HEW statements had recently ruled cyclamates to be safe for consumption.

Consumers responded with mixed reactions to the cyclamate ban. Some were concerned for their health and immediately wanted products without the controversial cyclamates. Others were concerned that they might not have low-calorie alternatives to their favorite products. As a result, many stores reported unusually heavy sales of cyclamate-containing products in the week immediately following the ban. Apparently, consumers stocked up on the items that they expected to be removed from supermarket shelves. The Royal Crown Cola company, producer of Diet-Rite, the leading diet soft drink in 1969, surveyed consumers to determine their reactions to the cyclamate issue. The results of the survey indicated that consumers were not concerned about their consumption of cyclamates even though they were aware of the controversy.

Many retail stores chose to remove cyclamate-containing products before the February 1 deadline. Other stores left cyclamate products on the shelves but discontinued orders of new products. Most stores endured a slowdown in sales of diet products following the announcement of the ban.

Producers of diet-plan beverages that were formulated and marketed as substitutes for traditional meals found an exemption from the ban by repackaging their products and distributing them through drugstores as prescription items. This move enabled them to avoid huge losses on their inventories.

Diet soft drink manufacturers dealt with the transition to cyclamate-free products remarkably well. Fortunately for the manufacturers, the ban was announced in October, a traditionally slow sales and advertising period. Soft drinks are not produced very long in advance of distribution, so manufacturers were not hampered by large inventories that might become worthless.

Fruit canners did not fare as well as soft drink producers, as they had just completed a seasonal pack when the ban was announced. Further, canners and jam producers generally had proportionately more diet products in their product mix than did soft drink producers. Manufacturers of diet-type canned fruits and vegetables successfully secured an extension in the phase-out time for cyclamates. They effectively extended the deadline to September 1, 1970. This extension enabled them to deplete most of the inventory that had been canned prior to the ban announcement.

With the impending deadline for the ban of cyclamates quickly approaching, manufacturers of foods and beverages were eager to discover a cyclamate replacement that would save the market for their products. Soft drink manufacturers overwhelmingly switched from cyclamates to saccharin. Saccharin did not replicate the taste of sugar as well as did cyclamates. Saccharin also had the unfortunate drawback of a bitter aftertaste. A small amount of sugar could be added to a drink to squelch the bitter aftertaste, but this added approximately forty calories to the product. Manufacturers were concerned about the marketability of this substitute, afraid that consumers would not consider the reduction of a few calories to be enough of a benefit to purchase the diet drink and that consumers concerned about the effect of sugar on teeth would not be satisfied with the addition of sugar.

Following the October announcement of the cyclamates ban, advertising was heavy among diet product producers, both those that used cyclamates and those that did not. Many products that were marketed as diet or sugar-free and never did use cyclamates increased their advertising for two reasons. First, they now had an advantage over the cyclamate-containing products. Second, their producers wanted to be certain that consumers knew that cyclamates were not used in the products.

Although it is difficult to measure the effectiveness of advertising, it is clear that consumers responded favorably to new diet products that replaced those containing cyclamates. Saccharin had been produced since 1901. It became the sweetener of choice for diet products for more than two decades, until health risks similar to those earlier discovered for cyclamates were associated with it. Aspartame (NutraSweet and Equal) emerged as the replacement of saccharin in the 1980’s. Because of the potential volume of sales and profits generated from diet foods and beverages, research targeting the physiological effects of currently consumed artificial sweeteners and the development of new artificial sweeteners continues. Sucaryl
Sweeteners, artificial
Food;government regulation

Further Reading

  • “Bitter Battle Over Sweets.” Science News 92 (August 26, 1967): 199-202. A nontechnical article outlining the development of the cyclamate industry. Cites research supported by the Sugar Foundation. Animal studies performed by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, which linked the sweetener to inhibited growth and infertility in some laboratory rats, are discussed.
  • Cohen, Rich. Sweet and Low: A Family Story. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006. A history of the family business that manufactures the artificial sweetener “Sweet’N Low,” made from granulated saccharine and dextrose.
  • Cohen, Stanley E. “Cyclamates Incident May Raise Some Questions for Government Marketers.” Advertising Age 40 (October 27, 1969): 107. Discusses controversial issues and the impact of the cyclamate ban on producers and policy makers.
  • “Cyclamates: How Sweet It Isn’t.” Chemical Week 105 (October 29, 1969): 30-31. Discusses the economic impact of the cyclamate ban on producers of cyclamates.
  • “Cyclamates Try for a Comeback.” BusinessWeek, August 6, 1984, 24. A nontechnical article chronicling the continued efforts by the sweetener industry to have cyclamates reinstated as a food additive.
  • “Diet Industry Has a Hungry Look.” BusinessWeek, October 25, 1969, 41-42. Discusses the impact of the cyclamate ban on producers of diet soft drinks and other diet foods.
  • Donlon, Thomas B., and Kathryn Sederberg. “Food, Drink People React Swiftly to Cyclamate Ban: Ads May Increase.” Advertising Age 40 (October 27, 1969): 1. Discusses the impact on advertising resulting from the cyclamate ban. Shares specific companies’ strategies for new advertising.
  • Semling, H. V., Jr. “FDA Establishing Cyclamate Policy, Economic Woes Being Heard.” Food Processing 31 (April, 1970): 71-72. Highlights the new policy on cyclamates used for pharmaceutical products and the phase-out schedule for cyclamates in food products. Also discusses the economic impact of the ban.
  • Sun, Marjorie. “Cyclamate’s Safety Still Unresolved.” Science 228 (June 28, 1985): 1514-1515. A short discussion of the National Academy’s report on their yearlong investigation of the experimental evidence linking cyclamates to dangerous health effects.

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