- A class action was filed (Law360 subscription required) on January 5, 2023, against Glanbia Performance Nutrition, Inc. d/b/a THINK!, alleging that the company deceived consumers by claiming that their protein bars contained no artificial sweeteners despite being sweetened by maltitol syrup.
- Maltitol is a sugar alcohol, and the complaint describes how maltitol is produced to demonstrate that the ingredient is artificial; namely, maltose is hydrogenated in the presence of hydrogen gas and a metal catalyst.
- Although FDA does not specifically define “artificial” or “artificial sweetener” (it does, however, define “artificial” in other contexts like artificial flavoring or artificial color), it refers to many of the approved sweeteners as artificial sweeteners. See e.g., 21 CFR 145.131 (Requiring canned figs that are sweetened with saccharin and/or sodium saccharin to be labeled as “artificially sweetened”). The complaint alleges that the hydrogenation reaction chemically changes the natural starting material (maltose), is not a naturally occurring chemical reaction, and therefore renders the maltitol product artificial. We note that while there is no GRAS or food additive regulation for maltitol, it is marketed on the basis of a self-affirmed GRAS position and is referenced in FDA’s regulations as one of the sugar alcohols which qualifies as a noncariogenic carbohydrate sweetener for which certain health claims can be made.
- We will continue to monitor and report on this case and other litigation relating to natural and artificial (free) claims.