A string of food contamination scares in China, including tainted meat, milk, soy sauce, rice and steamed buns, have continued to raise serious concerns over safety standards in China’s vast food manufacturing and processing industry. In an effort to curb the problem of food adulteration and misbranding, the General Office of China’s State Council said last month that it intends to take "a firm attitude, iron-hand measures and more efforts" to deal with people and companies that add illegal substances to food, and issued new guidelines on food additives to industry.
Neotame, which was developed by NutraSweet, is between 7,000 and 13,000 times sweeter than sugar and is by far the sweetest of the high intensity sweeteners.
NutraSweet CEO Craig R. Petray said: "Local Chinese counterfeit production of neotame has increased significantly and counterfeiters are flooding the Chinese market with substandard versions of our popular sugar substitute.
“Quite apart from the adverse effect the situation is having on our business in China, counterfeit neotame could pose a safety threat to consumers as there is no national product standard for locally produced neotame and thus no way of assuring proper manufacturing and handling of our patented additive.”
NutraSweet’s neotame is available in China, but only through its official distribution partners. Petray added that the company welcomed the Chinese move to take a stronger approach to government supervision of food additive production and distribution.
“Counterfeiters of our ingredient are producing and distributing substandard versions of neotame and misleading customers by claiming comparable quality at cut rate prices. The practice has to stop now,” Petray said.
Similar to aspartame, neotame is a combination of two amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine in methyl ester form. However, unlike aspartame, neotame is acceptable for those with phenylketonuria, as no free phenylalanine remains in the body after digestion.
Neotame has been generally recognized as safe (GRAS) under US Food and Drug Administration regulations since 2002. More recently, neotame gained approval for use in the European Union early in 2010, and is also used in foods and beverages in Australia and New Zealand.