Pepsi replaces sugar with mystery ingredient

by The Tap Blog  |  published on March 18, 2013


So what exactly is this magic ingredient that will be appearing in a new version of Pepsi, and how is it made? Unfortunately, those questions are hard to answer. Senomyx… refers to them only as ‘enhancers’ or ‘ingredients’… The products work by triggering receptors on the tongue and tricking your taste buds into sensing sweetness — or saltiness or coolness, in the case of the company’s other programs…

So are Senomyx’s covert ingredients safe? That, too, is anyone’s guess… many of its enhancers have ‘been granted’GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) status, but all that means is that the company did its own assessment and then concluded everything was fine. We don’t know whether Senomyx did any testing since the company isn’t required to submit anything to the FDA.14.

There’s no reason to think that Senomyx’s products will cause harm, but until or unless Pepsi decides to share details about how exactly it’s achieving a 60 percent reduction in sugar while keeping the taste the same, customers will be drinking their ‘scientifically advantaged’ sodas completely in the dark.”

The lack of labeling requirements is particularly troublesome and will probably become an issue in the future. Since these compounds (whatever they are) are used in such minute quantities, they don’t have to be listed on the label. They’ll simply fall under the generic category of artificial and/or natural flavors. What this means is that the product will appear to be much “healthier” than it might otherwise be, were a flavor enhancer not used.

According to a 2010 CBS report,15 Senomyx’s flavor enhancers were already being sold outside the US at that time. For example, Nestle was by 2010 using an MSG flavor enhancer in its Maggi brand soups, sauces, condiments and instant noodles, and Ajinomoto was also using a similar ingredient in products for the Chinese market.

This means less of the artificial sweetener is needed to create the same sweet taste as before, but while one could argue that this is a good thing, I suspect we will ultimately learn that this flavor enhancement method has multiple unforeseen adverse consequences — metabolically, and biologically.

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