According to Eric Walters, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, in Chicago, whose research has focused on sweeteners, one of the Hopkins researchers accidentally spilled lab material on his hand and then noticed an unaccountable sweet taste while eating dinner that night. (Obviously, hand-washing before a meal was not a priority back then).
By 1900, Saccharin had become quite popular. Interestingly, the Monsanto Chemical Company was founded in 1901 for the sole purpose of producing saccharin. In 1903, the company began shipping saccharin to Georgia to a little known company called Coca-Cola. The development of SweetN Low came later, so it could be mixed with cyclamate to counter the metallic aftertaste of saccharin. Although the present formula of SweetN Low has been altered because of a ban on cyclamates, the main ingredient is still saccharin.
All powdered sugar substitutes contain dextrose, a carbohydrate derived from corn, and used to dilute a potent sweetener. Saccharin is no exception. Saccharin is between 300 and 500 times sweeter than sugar and is found in all sorts of consumer products from foods to vitamins and pharmaceuticals. In fact, saccharin may be present in drugs in substantial amounts.
Since the 1970s, products containing Saccharin (except for over-the-counter drugs) had to include a warning label because of tests which showed it to be a carcinogenic substance. However, in the year 2000, the US Congress passed a bill so that the US Department of Health and Human Services could remove Saccharin from the list of harmful substances, thereby eliminating the need for warning labels.
Even so, the American Medical Association still recommends limiting the intake of saccharin in young children and pregnant women. For a school-age child, taking the recommended daily dose of chewable aspirin or acetaminophen tablets provides the same amount of saccharin as one can of diet soft drink.
Infant formulas also contains the sweetener, which is associated with irritability, hypertonia (abnormally increased strength), insomnia, spasms, and strabismus (eye deviations).
Saccharin also seems to cause the same type of allergies found in children who react to sulfa drugs. Other reported reactions include wheezing, nausea, diarrhea, tongue blisters, tachycardia, fixed eruptions, headache, diuresis, and sensory neuropathy.
This page was updated in December 2005.