Texas Group Takes Aim at Splenda’s Campaign of Misinformation

FTC to Investigate

AUSTIN, Texas, Jan. 31 /PRNewswire/ — The Texas Consumer Association today asked the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to investigate the misleading and deceptive marketing campaign being conducted by Johnson & Johnson’s McNeil Nutritionals for its artificial sweetener Splenda.

By continually using the word “sugar” in its advertisements and in its packaging, McNeil is attempting to link Splenda and sugar in consumers’ minds and convince consumers that Splenda is somehow “more natural” — and therefore more healthy — than any other artificial sweetener or food additive.

“With consumers across the country concerned about their health and trying to eat more natural foods, it is alarming that McNeil is engaged in an underhanded campaign to confuse consumers into believing Splenda is natural,” commented Sandra Haverlah, president of the Texas Consumer Association.

The Texas Consumer Association asked the FTC to step in and mandate that McNeil provide consumers with accurate and truthful information about Splenda.

McNeil has no foundation for the claims it is making in its deceptive ads, since Splenda is not a natural derivative of sugar. What’s more, it is not even necessary to use sugar to manufacture Splenda.

“McNeil’s campaign is a sham,” Haverlah asserted. “It’s time for the FTC to investigate.”

McNeil’s deception, however, has begun to have a significant impact: Splenda has grabbed almost 40% of the U.S. consumer sweetener market, taking market share not just from artificial sweeteners, but also from natural sugar.

Splenda’s success in the marketplace comes as Texas and the rest of the country grapple with a growing obesity crisis. Thirty-five percent of children in Texas are overweight or obese, according to the Texas Agriculture Commission, and childhood obesity in Texas has doubled over the past 20 years.

Haverlah said that many consumers are purchasing Splenda based on a belief that it is in some way “more natural” than — and therefore preferable to — other artificial sweeteners or food additives.

“Consumers should be given the truth about the products they buy and eat, and McNeil is trying to pull the wool over consumers’ eyes,” Haverlah continued. “This campaign of misinformation must be stopped.”

Sandra Haverlah, President of Texas Consumer Association, sent the following letter, dated Jan. 31, to the Division of Advertising Practices, Bureau of Consumer Protection, at the Federal Trade Commission:

Consumers in Texas and across the country deserve to be told the truth about the food they eat and the products they buy. That’s why it’s so alarming that throughout the course of its marketing campaign, Johnson & Johnson company McNeil Nutritionals has been attempting to confuse consumers into believing that its artificial sweetener Splenda is a natural product by linking Splenda to sugar. It’s up to the Federal Trade Commission to ensure that the information provided to us through advertising is accurate. The Texas Consumer Association therefore asks the FTC to fully investigate this misleading advertising campaign and stop McNeil from continuing its campaign of misinformation.

By continually using the word “sugar” in its advertisements and in its packaging, McNeil is attempting to link Splenda and sugar in consumers’ minds. But McNeil has no foundation for its claims. Splenda isn’t natural. On the contrary, it is a man-made artificial sweetener formed by a complex chemical reaction.

With obesity at an all-time high in the U.S. and the low-carbohydrate diet phenomenon remaining strong, Splenda has grabbed almost 40% of the U.S. consumer sweetener market share. An increasing number of consumers are purchasing Splenda based on their belief that it is in some way “more natural” — and therefore more healthy — than any other artificial sweetener or food additive.

Consumers need to understand that developing good, healthy eating habits will lead to weight loss. This is especially important for children, who are developing eating habits they will carry with them throughout life. Thirty- five percent of children in Texas are overweight or obese, according to the Texas Agriculture Commission. Childhood obesity in Texas has doubled over the past 20 years. These are startling statistics.

Luckily, Texas schools have started to take constructive steps toward helping students eat better. Like the latest edition of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, the state of Texas is recommending eating natural, whole grain foods, fruits and vegetables.

Given the state and national push for healthy, natural foods, it is greatly disturbing that McNeil would try to confuse and mislead consumers into believing that Splenda is natural. Even more troubling, many of Splenda’s new advertisements focus on children and many of the new foods that include Splenda are juices, cereals, and snacks children tend to eat. In its recent letter to the FTC on this topic, Generation Green noted that these ads aim to encourage children to eat low-sugar products suggesting that “low sugar” and “with Splenda” means the product is healthier. The Texas Consumer Association shares Generation Green’s concern that this misleading marketing campaign is hindering the ability of parents to make informed, health-guided decisions about the food they buy for their families.

It’s time for McNeil to stop misleading the public. The Texas Consumer Association strongly urges the FTC to investigate this advertising campaign and instruct McNeil to tell the truth about Splenda.

Source: Texas Consumer Association