Acesulfame K: the evidence

Acesulfame potassium, also known as acesulfame K, is a calorie-free sweetener up to 200 times sweeter than sugar and as sweet as aspartame.

It is often blended with sucralose and used to decrease the bitter aftertaste of aspartame.

A wide range of low-calorie foods and drinks contain acesulfame K, including table-top sweeteners, chewing gum, jam, dairy products, frozen desserts, drinks and baked goods.

Acesulfame K is not broken down when digested, nor is it stored in the body. After being consumed, it is quickly absorbed by the body and then rapidly excreted, unchanged.

Acesulfame K has been approved for general use in the EU and the US. Critics say the sweetener has not been studied adequately and may be carcinogenic, affect pregnancy and cause tumours.

The US Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has questioned the quality of the research on cancer. However, these claims have been dismissed by the US Food and Drug Administration and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

The EFSA's predecessor, the Scientific Committee on Food, re-examined the cancer studies in 2000 (PDF, 41kb) and concluded there was no "indication of possible carcinogenicity from these studies". 

The reviewing panel also concluded that acesulfame K was not toxic at recommended levels of consumption and could not cause gene mutation.

Acceptable daily intake: 9mg per kg of body weight

Find out what the latest scientific evidence says about these other common artificial sweeteners:

Read The truth about sweeteners

Page last reviewed: 13/04/2016

Next review due: 13/04/2019


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