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Coke Zero hit by Venezuelan sweetener snag

By Neil Merrett , 15-Jun-2009
Last updated on 15-Jun-2009 at 13:53 GMT

Coca-Cola is facing trouble in its Venezuelan operations after the country’s health ministry called to ban one of the company’s no calorie-brands Friday, alleging that an artificial sweetener in the formulation was not declared, according to new reports.

Coca-Cola Zero, launched worldwide by the company as no-calorie soft drink, has since been pulled from shelves across Venezuela amidst claims from authorities that the product contains an unapproved chemical, reports the Associated Press.

A company spokesperson cited in the report claims that no ingredients used in its beverages were considered harmful to human health, though the drink maker says it is respecting the national ban by bringing a halt to production of the brand.

According to reporting by the Forbes news agency, the company has already faced backlashes across Latin America over possible use of an ingredient called cyclamate, although regional representatives for Coca-Cola claim that the sweetener is not present in the Zero brand.

Sweetener concerns

The action reportedly being taken by the Venezuelan government continues to highlight possible safety concerns over the use of some synthetic sweeteners in formulation.

While cyclamates have not been used in the US since 1969, wider research continues into the possible impacts sweeteners could be having on consumer health.

Some clinical research over the last few years has looked at sweetener consumption and cancer risks, with one epidemiological study from Italy concluding in 2007 that some sweeteners such as aspartame may be safe to use.

Fears have existed over a potential link between some sweeteners and cancer since the 1970s, but findings from animal studies linking saccharine to bladder cancer were not reproduced in similar human testing during the Italian-based study printed in the Annals of Oncology.

Less is known about other sweeteners such as aspartame and cyclamate, though the sweetener market is undergoing a major shake up.

According to market researcher Freedonia, overall sweetener prices are forecast to see erosion, following an increased dynamism in the sweetener industry. This dynamism is linked to a number of new options available after years of relative stability.

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