Empty Pleasures

Empty Pleasures: The Story of Artificial Sweeteners from Saccharin to Splenda

CAROLYN DE LA PEÑA
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 296
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5149/9780807879672_de_la_pena
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  • Book Info
    Empty Pleasures
    Book Description:

    Sugar substitutes have been a part of American life since saccharin was introduced at the 1893 World's Fair. InEmpty Pleasures, the first history of artificial sweeteners in the United States, Carolyn de la Pena blends popular culture with business and women's history, examining the invention, production, marketing, regulation, and consumption of sugar substitutes such as saccharin, Sucaryl, NutraSweet, and Splenda. She describes how saccharin, an accidental laboratory by-product, was transformed from a perceived adulterant into a healthy ingredient. As food producers and pharmaceutical companies worked together to create diet products, savvy women's magazine writers and editors promoted artificially sweetened foods as ideal, modern weight-loss aids, and early diet-plan entrepreneurs built menus and fortunes around pleasurable dieting made possible by artificial sweeteners.NutraSweet, Splenda, and their predecessors have enjoyed enormous success by promising that Americans, especially women, can "have their cake and eat it too," butEmpty Pleasuresargues that these "sweet cheats" have fostered troubling and unsustainable eating habits and that the promises of artificial sweeteners are ultimately too good to be true.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0495-4
    Subjects: Business, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[xii])
  3. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-12)

    In May 2008, I ate breakfast at Café du Monde in New Orleans. It was early in the morning and the café had just opened, but already the tables were filling up with customers ordering the customary cup of house coffee and a heaping plate of beignets. I’d brought a book with me and planned to do a bit of background reading for one of the chapters I was working on. But the scene was too interesting. I was drawn to the sounds of tourists, half American and half foreign, speaking many languages, and the smells of what joined them:...

  4. ONE FALSE SCARLET HEALTHFUL SUGAR VS. ADULTEROUS SACCHARIN IN THE EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURY
    (pp. 13-38)

    In the twenty-first century, few of us are shocked to find artificial sweeteners on our supermarket shelves. We rarely gasp in horror when we see a can of soda sweetened with aspartame (Equal/Nutra Sweet) in a fellow shopper’s cart. We do not complain to the manager when we find a bag of sucralose (Splenda) next to the sugar in the baking section, advertising its ability to facilitate sugar-free cakes for the “health-conscious” family. We may reach for a little pink packet to sweeten a restaurant-ordered iced tea simply because saccharin dissolves easier than sugar. We sometimes answer “diet” when asked...

  5. TWO ALCHEMIC ALLY WOMEN’S CREATIVITY AND CONTROL IN SACCHARIN AND CYCLAMATES
    (pp. 39-64)

    Before the pink packets, before the Tab, before NutraSweet and Splenda were embedded in our “light” prepackaged desserts, women had to open pill bottles and empty the contents into their food. This era of experimentation, extending roughly from 1945 to 1958, has been largely forgotten today. The years after World War II, however, are an important “alchemic era” in artificial sweetener’s history, a time when the user had to discern the possibilities and delineate the limitations of chemical sweets.

    By 1958, artificial sweeteners were commodified. Canned fruits, jellies, and salad dressings sweetened with saccharin and the new cyclamates (or a...

  6. THREE DIET MEN THE FOOD-PHARMA ORIGINS OF ARTIFICIALLY SWEETENED PRODUCTS
    (pp. 65-104)

    In November 1970, executives from the California Canners and Growers (CCG) were thinking about Guatemala. Having been informed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that their cyclamate-sweetened canned fruit would be banned in the United States, the CCG had a mountain of product with no place to go. Warehouses sat filled with cases of chemically sweetened apple sauce, apricots, apricot nectar, cherries, figs, fruit cocktail, fruit salad, grapefruit sections, mandarin oranges, peaches, pears, pineapple chunks, and plums—all of it rejected by alarmed wholesalers and consumers. Diet Delight, a brand of cyclamate-sweetened dietetic fruits that had just a year...

  7. FOUR PROSPERITY STOMACHS AND PROSPEROUS WOMEN DIET ENTREPRENEURS
    (pp. 105-140)

    In 1953, Tillie Lewis, owner of a Stockton-based fruit-canning company, told readers of theChicago Americanthe most important fact about modern weight control: “You now know that dieting can be pleasant. You’ve discovered that food research has finally produced sweet desserts and rich dressings which make it possible to take calories out of a menu, without removing the pleasure of eating or the texture and taste from dietetic food.”¹

    Lewis was part of a small group of businesswomen who worked with artificial sweetener to fundamentally change the meaning of “diet” between 1953 and the late 1970s. Diets, of course,...

  8. FIVE SACCHARIN REBELS THE RIGHT TO RISKY PLEASURE IN 1977
    (pp. 141-176)

    Artificial sweeteners are chemicals. Saccharin, cyclamates, aspartame (Nutra Sweet), and sucralose (Splenda) were all discovered in a laboratory, not in nature. Thus even when market and consumer forces combine to render sweeteners safe and desirable, there exists an undercurrent of uncertainty and fear. This was swift and powerful in the early twentieth century, as consumers combined unease over the chemical origins of saccharin with disdain for the industrial producers who dared to sneak it into their drinks. Fear diminished in the postwar era, however, as consumers engaged in their own experiments at home and redefined saccharin and its new competitor...

  9. SIX NUTRASWEET NATION PROFIT, PERIL, AND THE PROMISE OF A FREE LUNCH
    (pp. 177-218)

    Between 1975 and 1984, Americans increased their consumption of artificial sweetener by 150 percent. Some of this dramatic growth can be attributed to the general rise in dieting in the United States and the proliferation of saccharin-sweetened products in the mid-1970s. Some of it is owed to the controversy over saccharin that forced many Americans to become advocates for the chemical in their own defense. Most of it, however, is because of Nutra Sweet, the third artificial sweetener sold in the United States.

    Nutra Sweet, the brand name of the new artificial sweetener aspartame, became phenomenally popular in the 1980s....

  10. CONCLUSION SPLENDA, SUGAR, AND WHAT MOTHER NATURE INTENDED
    (pp. 219-228)

    In November 2004, Merisant, manufacturer of the table-top, aspartamebased sweetener Equal, sued McNeil Nutritionals, a division of Johnson and Johnson and the manufacturer of Splenda, for false and misleading advertising in Splenda’s “made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar” campaign. Merisant evoked the Lanham Act, which prohibits false or misleading advertisements to American consumers, to stop McNeil from making several claims in television and print advertisements that suggested that Splenda was like sugar, only with the calories removed. After three years of fighting in the courts, Johnson and Johnson settled, just before the jury was to return what appeared...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 229-256)
  12. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 257-268)
  13. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 269-272)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 273-279)