Big Sugar Fights Back | Erythritol Insights from Icon Foods

Big Sugar Fights Back…

There is no denying that over the past six months the sugar industry and large CPG’s have been under attack. This started when the FDA proposed a new definition for the term “healthy, which created a huge divide between big food makers and nutritionists (1). The new guidelines put a limit on added sugars, in order for a product to be called healthy. The upper limit is 5%approx. 2.5 gramsof added sugar (1). To put this in perspective, one can of Pepsi has 41 grams of sugar (3) while a Snickers bar has 26 grams (12). The FDA followed this new definition with a proposal for front-of-package nutrition labels that would call out sugar and sodium levels in a spotlight-style color scheme (4).

To add insult to injury, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced new regulations for school meals—both breakfast and lunch—set to begin for the 2024-25 academic year. Limits on added sugar to represent no more than 10% of calories per meal are set to start in the 2025-26 school year. This major initiative will also target sodium levels in school lunches and will increase incrementally through 2030 (5). You can submit comments electronically to to Docket No. FNS-2022-0043 prior to April 10, 2023 (2).

Previously there were no regulations for sugar in school lunches on a national level, only fats including trans fats. The focus on limiting fats in lunches was seemingly counterproductive, resulting in foodservice companies’ greater use of sugar to compensate for the lower fat content. Sound familiar?

You may recall a massive anti-fat campaign from about 20 years ago that resulted in fat-free Oreo cookies and fat-free Lays potato chips being formulated with Olestra. In an attempt to drive down the overall fat content of packaged goods, “the FDA approved olestra as a food additive… [unfortunately], olestra proved to be a greedy chemical. It not only removed unwanted fat from foods but also negated the body’s ability to absorb essential vitamins” (6). To prevent this type of catastrophe from repeating itself, the FDA implemented new packaging regulations (11) and redefined their examination process of food ingredients.


Examining Erythritol: Causation vs Correlation

Many of the campaigns that came about during the anti-fat phase were spearheaded by the sugar industry and large CPGs with some studies even funded by the groups— exposed in a 2016 New York Times article which stated that “the sugar industry paid scientists in the 1960s to shape the debate” (10). The February 27 research paper posted on “The artificial sweetener erythritol and cardiovascular event risk,” (13) (now behind a paywall) has been widely discussed and covered by major news outlets, like CCN—the heading changed to Zero-calorie sweetener linked to heart attack and stroke, study finds.” (8).

These health concerns are a simple matter of correlation vs causation. We’d recommend sticking with the facts:

  • The FDA GRAS study is backed up by the National Institute of Health, both of which state the same thing: erythritol is safe (7).

A recent podcast by Nutraceuticals World included insights from Thom King, in which he stated, “Erythritol naturally occurs in the human body. A lot of polyols do, in fact, like, arabitol and inositol. Of all the polyols, erythritol is the one that has the lowest GI impact—bowel tolerance usually is hit at about 20-25 grams. The dosage level from the study was between 30 and 100 grams, which far exceeds what a normal person would be able to consume in an entire 24-hour period” (9). Most products use a blend of stevia, monk fruit, and erythritol. Because stevia and monk fruit are high intensity sweeteners, they can only be used in smaller quantities. Erythritol is used to replace bulk in a formula when sugar reduction is the goal.

If there are 200 studies that say something is safe and one study that says that same something will harm you, we all know which study will find its way into the news. It’s important to note that the study assigned a correlation, but no causation, and a speculative mechanism, resulting in the thought: ‘Studies assessing the long-term safety of erythritol are warranted’. King went on to say, “from what I observed as a food scientist, the study ignored that properly designed double-blind crossover. Clinical studies have already been completed, published, reviewed, and found no such correlation for consumption and negative health outcomes doses. But, why let facts get in the way of a good story.
I think the most recent GRAS document, published in 2019, does a great job of summarizing all the animal and human toxicology studies performed” (9).

Erythritol vs Sugar from Icon Foods

Consumer Reaction

We have yet to see what the impact will be in consumer sentiment regarding erythritol. In conversations with many of our customers that are using erythritol there is nervousness. Why wouldn’t there be? The keto, low carb and no-added sugar, better-for-you categories have taken a hit over the past year. They are premium products and cost more. With inflation rising, consumers make different choices.

If you have a product that contains erythritol and you want to explore options, Icon Foods is here to help. We have been formulating natural sweeteners for over 20 years. Clean label sweeteners are our business. There are options to replace or reduce erythritol. We have a new U.S.-made rebaudioside M that is the most neutral flavored steviol glycoside on the market. It can stand on its own in many applications and pairs remarkably with allulose as well as monk fruit.

You are not alone! Icon Foods is your partner in clean label sugar reduction.


Further Data




  1. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “Use of the Term Healthy on Food Labeling.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, 7 Oct. 2022,
  2. “Child Nutrition Programs.”, Food and Nutrition Service, 6 Feb. 2023,
  3. “The Facts About Your Favorite Foods and Beverages (U.S.).” Carbonated Soft Drinks > Pepsi, PEPSICO, 25 Mar. 2023,
  4. Gelski, Jeff. “FDA Seeks Comments on Front-of-Package Labeling.” Food Business News, Food Business News, 26 Jan. 2023,
  5. Gelski, Jeff. “USDA to Regulate Added Sugars in School Meals.” Food Business News, Food Business News, 6 Feb. 2023,
  6. Gentilviso, Chris. “The 50 Worst Inventions.” Time, Time Inc., 27 May 2010,,28804,1991915_1991909_1991785,00.html.
  7. “GRAS Notice 789 for Erythritol.” FDA,
  8. LaMotte, Sandee. “Zero-Calorie Sweetener Linked to Heart Attack, Stroke, Study Finds.” CNN, Cable News Network, 28 Feb. 2023,
  9. Moloughney, Sean. “Podcast: Thom King on Erythritol Safety, Sugar Reduction and Formulation Strategies.” Nutraceuticals World, 3 Apr. 2023,
  10. O’connor, Anahad. “How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame to Fat.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 12 Sept. 2016,
  11. Rossen, Jake. “May Cause Anal Leakage: The Olestra Fat-Free Snack Controversy of the 1990s.” Mental Floss, Mental Floss, 9 Apr. 2020,,stools%2C%20an%20observed%20side%20effect%20of%20olestra%20consumption.
  12. “Snickers Singles Size Chocolate Candy Bars, 1.86 Oz.”, Mars, 2023,
  13. Witkowski, Marco, et al. “The Artificial Sweetener Erythritol and Cardiovascular Event Risk.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 27 Feb. 2023,




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