What are low- and no-calorie sweeteners?
Low- and no-calorie sweeteners are food ingredients used in foods and drinks to provide the taste consumers know and expect from foodstuffs, with no or hardly any calories. This makes them a useful tool in helping consumers to manage their total calorie intake as part of a healthy lifestyle.
Low- and no-calorie sweeteners have a much higher intensity of sweetness per gram than sugar, which is the reason why they can be used in very small quantities to achieve the same level of sweetness of sugar. The four most frequently used sweeteners in soft drinks in Europe are acesulfame K, aspartame, steviol glycosides (stevia) and sucralose.
Are low- and no-calorie sweeteners safe?
Low- and no-calorie sweeteners are amongst the most thoroughly researched ingredients in the world.
All of the low- and no-calorie sweeteners used in foods and drinks in Europe today have been subjected to rigorous safety assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Only sweeteners considered as safe by EFSA and then authorised by the EU institutions can be used in food and drink products.
Safety assessments are also carried out by numerous national and international food safety authorities including the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), as well as regulatory agencies in many countries worldwide.
What are the benefits of low- and no-calorie sweeteners?
Low- and no-calorie sweeteners help reduce the amount of sugar used in foods and beverages, therefore contributing to reducing the amount of calories. That’s why low- and no-calorie sweeteners can assist in weight management when consumed in place of sugar.
Low- and no-calorie sweeteners can also help with the management of diabetes as they do not affect blood sugar levels.
Why are low- and no-calorie sweeteners used in soft drinks?
Low- and no-calorie sweeteners provide the taste consumers know and expect, yet with no or very few calories. This allows soft drinks producers to innovate to develop new low- and no-calorie products with different sweetness levels in order to help consumers to manage their calorie intake from soft drinks.
Low- and no-calorie sweeteners are therefore an integral part of the soft drinks sector’s sugar reduction actions to offer more choice with less sugar, in support of public health recommendations to reduce excessive sugar consumption. In addition to using low- and no-calorie sweeteners, the soft drinks industry is also investing in further promoting low- and no-calorie beverages to actively encourage consumer choice towards these products. Low- and no-calorie drinks currently represent over 40% of soft drinks sales in some European countries.
How can I check if foods and drinks contain low- and no-calorie sweeteners?
In European Union food labelling legislation, the presence of a low- and no-calorie sweetener in foods and drinks must be indicated on the label as ‘’with sweetener(s)’’ and also in the list of ingredients (full name and/or ’E’ number).
The ‘E’ number indicates that it has been approved as safe for use in beverages in Europe.
What are the low- and no-calorie sweeteners used in foods and drinks?
There are several types of low- and no-calorie sweeteners used in food and drink products like soft drinks, cakes, chewing gum, ice-cream and breakfast cereals.
The four low- and no-calorie sweeteners most frequently used are acesulfame K, aspartame, stevia, and sucralose.