In an article on the saccharin ban in Friday's editions.The Washington Post incorrectly reported that a bill introduced by Rep. Steven D. Symms (R-Idaho), would modify the Delaney clause of the Food. Drug and Cosmetics Act, which requires a ban on substances found to cause cancer in animals or humans. The Symms Rill actually would repeal the "efficacy" provisions of the act and would not affect the sarcharin decision.
The Food and Drug Administration's proposed ban of the artificial sweetener saccharin produced widespread reverberations and confusion today because no other artificial sugar substitute is now available on the market.
Soft-drink manufacturers, who account for 75 per cent of the estimated 5 million pounds of saccharin consumed in the U.S. annually, indicated they would reformulate their low-calorie beverages, but it was not clear what sweeteners they would come up with.
Coca-Cola Co., Inc., which makes Tab, Fresca and several other "sugar-free" drinks, said it regretted the FDA's action but would be on the market within the 90 to 120-day period before saccharin is actually withdrawn with a reformulation that "will be either natural sweeteners or no sweetener at all," according to a spokesperson.
The Dr. Pepper Co. said it "flatly rejected the validity" of the Canadian tests upon which the FDA's action was based, which allegedly linked saccharin to bladder cancer in laboratory rats. The company, said it would "use every legal means at its disposal" to overturn the proposed ban, but added that other low-calorie formulas already have been developed if the saccharin prohibition does go into effect.
Researchers at Albany Medical College, Albany, N.Y., reported that saccharin proved to be completely harmless in tests where rhesus monkeys have been force-fed the chemical for six days a week for nearly seven years.
"We found absolutely nothing - no signs of cancer, nothing," said Frederick Coulston, professor of pathology and director of the school's institute for Comparative and Human Toxicology. Coulston said the FDA was aware of the tests because it sponsored them, in part, along with pharmaceutical companies that use saccharin.
At the America Diabetes Association, switchboards were flooded with calls beginning early this morning from diabetics who were concerned about what sweeteners they now could use with safety, according to public affairs director Leonard F. Elliott.
Elliot said the association's chapters were informed of a meeting that will be held in New York City this weekend, including top research scientists and clinicians, who will address the question.
Lynne Perry, executive director the New York Diabetes Association, said she had been fielding calls "all day," ranging from "'What should I do, stop drinking diet sodas altogether?' to 'Should I march on Washington to get this thing reversed?' Some people are very angry."
Both Elliott and Perry said they were reluctant to give advice until the studies upon which the FDA made its finding are released in full so they can be evaluated.
"There is no real substitute" for saccharin, Perry said, although there are some natural sweeteners which diabetics can use, "but only in very small amounts."
The companies that manufacture and market saccharin were hardest hit by the proposed ban, which would go into effect probably in July, at the earliest, after the FDA drafts its order, waits for a 60-day comment period, and then waits another 30 days to issue its final order.
Sherwin-Williams Co., the nation's only producer of saccharin, said that because of the proposed prohibition, on Friday it will temporarily close the factory in Cincinnati where it manufactures the sugar substitute. Saccharin production accounts for only $10 million of $1 billion in annual sales for Sherwin-Williams, mainly a paint producer.
The impact is proportionately greater for the Cumberland Packing Corp., the nation's largest marketer of saccharin, which it sells under the brand name, Sweet 'N Low. Saccharin sales accounted for $45 million of $50 million in revenues in 1976 for Cumberland, a family-owned business.
"At this stage, I'm really in shock, I never thought the FDA would actually do this," said Marvin Eisenstadt, executive vice president of Cumberland. But he admitted that under the Delaney Amendment to the Pure Food and Drug Act, the agency had little choice. The amendment requires that all products that produce any sign of cancer in either test animals or humans be banned.
"The hypocrisy is that you can take ingredients that you know are harmful to man - such as tobacco or alcohol - and warn someone of the dangers, but at least he's got a choice," said Eisenstadt. "But in this case, they will be taking away a product that has been in use for over 80 years, and which has shown no signs of being harmful to human beings in that period."
Eisensadt said the only "chance for a reversal is if enough pressure is put on Congress to change the Delaney Amendment."
In making the announcement on Wednesday, Dr. Sherwin Gardner, then acting commissioner of food and drugs, said the FDA had "no evidence that saccharin has ever caused cancer in human beings," but that the "Canadian tests show unequivocally that this substance can produce malignant baldder tumors in rats." The amount of saccharin fed to the arts in the study were equivalent to what a consumer would get if he drank more than 800.2-ounce bottles of diet soda every day for a lifetime.
A bill has been introduced in Congress by Rep. Stevens B. Symms (R-Idaho) that would substitute for the outright ban called for by the Delaney clause: package warning, similar to that on cigarettes, which would give the public the right to choose if it wants to purchase a product such as saccharin about which safety questions have been raised.
The proposed saccharin ban also had repercussions on Wall Street where sugar stocks jumped in price, and where G.D. Searle was the most actively traded stock of the day, rising $1 to $12.375 on a volume of 348,700 shares.
Searle, a drug company, makes Aspartame, an artificial sweetener that has been kept off the market in a dispute with the FDA. Aspartame was approved by the FDA in 1974, but questions regarding its safety later were raised, and the FDA suspended its earlier approval to go ahead with marketing. Searle has been arguing with the FDA over the validity of its safety tests but continues to seek FDA clearance. Analysts today said that it would be a year, at the earliest, before Aspartame might hit the market.