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Aspartame Wins Wider Approval : Food: A modified form of the low-calorie sugar substitute is cleared for use in bakery products and low-alcohol beer.

April 20, 1993|From Associated Press

CHICAGO — Cake mixes, candy and low-alcohol beer could be the next products to add the NutraSweet swirl to their labels, since the government on Monday approved new uses of the low-calorie sweetener aspartame.

The Food and Drug Administration's approval of aspartame for commercial baked goods opens a broad potential market for NutraSweet Co. and Holland Sweetener Co., another aspartame maker.

Aspartame, which tends to lose its sweetness when heated, previously was restricted in the United States to products that do not require cooking or heating. NutraSweet spokesman Patrick Farrell said the company has solved that problem.

The approval is for cake mixes and other commercial baked goods, Farrell said. Aspartame sold for use at the table under the brand names Equal and NutraSweet Spoonful should not be substituted for sugar in homemade baked goods, he said.

The FDA approved aspartame for use in candies on Friday, and for baked goods, low-alcohol beer and all other nonalcoholic beverages on Monday, Farrell said.

"Ultimately, these actions will go a long way toward increasing the number of food and beverage choices available to American consumers," NutraSweet President Lauren Williams said in a statement from the company's headquarters in Deerfield, a Chicago suburb.

Among the new product categories, baked goods offer the best growth opportunity for NutraSweet, said Lawrence Adelman, food and beverage analyst with Dean Witter Reynolds Inc. in New York.

He said he was mystified as to how NutraSweet conquered the heat-decomposition problem. Farrell said it involved precise amounts of aspartame properly blended with other ingredients and carefully monitored cooking times.

NutraSweet, a division of the St. Louis-based chemical company Monsanto Co., had sales of $954 million last year. It had sought FDA approval of aspartame as an ingredient in baked goods since October, 1987, Farrell said.

NutraSweet's 23-year patent on marketing aspartame in the United States expired in December.

Monsanto stock closed unchanged Monday at $54.25 a share on the New York Stock Exchange.

The petition to allow aspartame's use in beer came from Detroit-based Stroh Brewery Co., which says that a tiny amount improves the taste of low-alcohol and non-alcoholic beers.

Aspartame gives the brews a fresher, smoother and more full-bodied taste, Stroh said in documents submitted to the FDA.

Stroh is developing products with aspartame that contain less than 3% alcohol by volume, but has no timetable for bringing them to market, spokeswoman Sandy Carson said. Regular and light beers contain more than 4% alcohol by volume.

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