Surprise! Some of your favorite foods may contain artificial sweetener

You’ve probably heard some of the concerns being raised lately about artificial sweeteners. Maybe you’ve even sworn off diet products as a result.

But it turns out the use of artificial sweeteners use is going up. Foods claiming to be “reduced sugar,” “low sugar,” “lite” or “low carb” likely contain artificial sweetener. Surprisingly, some are foods you wouldn’t think contain a sweetener of any kind.

Bread, candy, yogurt, snacks, protein powder and more are just some of the almost countless items sold throughout the U.S. that may contain artificial sweeteners with health concerns.

About artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners have come under fire lately as being associated with a range of health problems, including a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and coronary heart disease, in addition to cancer, obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

In May, a World Health Organization issued guidelines recommending against the use of these chemicals for weight control. In June, the WHO’s cancer agency, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, or IARC, determined aspartame was “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

Six artificial sweeteners have been approved for use in food by the Food and Drug Administration. They include:

Acesulfame potassium, also listed as Ace-K on ingredient labels, has been around since the 1960s and approved for use in food since the late 1980s. It’s about 200 times sweeter than sugar but has a bitter aftertaste, which may be why it’s used alongside other types of artificial sweeteners. It’s also a component of Equal, the tabletop sweetener. Consumption of acesulfame potassium has been linked to a slightly higher risk of cancer. 

Sucralose, sold under the brand name Splenda, is 600 times sweeter than table sugar. The FDA first approved it for use in 1998. The agency has not reviewed its approval in light of recent research that suggests a potential association between higher consumption of sucralose – as well as aspartame and acesulfame potassium – and higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

Aspartame, sold under the brand names NutraSweet and Equal, was classified by IARC over the summer as possibly causing cancer. It can be found in more than 5,000 foods and drinks sold in the U.S.

Saccharin is the granddaddy of artificial sweeteners – it was discovered by accident in 1879. Sold under the brand name Sweet and Low, it’s 200 to 700 times sweeter than table sugar. Its safety has long been under scrutiny. Large amounts have been shown to affect gut microbiome, among other health concerns. It’s been replaced in most foods by aspartame and other sweeteners. 

Neotame, which is 7,000 to 13,000 times sweeter than sugar, was approved for use by the FDA in 2002. It derives from aspartame and has some of the same safety concerns.

Like Neotame, Advantame also derives from aspartame and similar safety concerns. It’s about 20,000 times sweeter than table sugar and was approved by the FDA in 2014.

Foods with artificial sweeteners

Here are some of the foods you might not think contain artificial sweeteners but do. In some cases, they may also contain various types of sugar, including high-fructose corn syrup. In other instances, they may contain naturally derived sweeteners such as sorbitol, erythritol and monk fruit, which tend to have fewer health concerns. 

It’s another reminder of the importance of reading ingredient labels.

Low- and reduced-sugar canned fruit

Canned fruit is notoriously high in sugar. It makes sense people often prefer a version with “no sugar added,” especially to give to their kids. 

Some canned fruit, like Del Monte No Sugar Added Mandarin Oranges in Water and Safeway Select No Sugar Added Peaches, may contain sucralose. So do other types of packaged fruit products, like HyVee Fruit Cocktail No Sugar Added Packed in Water and Musselman’s Lite Original Apple Sauce

Light bread and other baked goods

Many bread and bakery products contain more than just flour, water and yeast – they’re often made with a wide range of potentially harmful food chemicals. 

With its “100 percent whole wheat” claim, Pepperidge Farm Light Style 100% Whole Wheat Bread would seem to be super-healthy and unprocessed. But it contains sucralose, in addition to honey, molasses, sugar and brown sugar.

And it’s not just bread that contains artificial sweeteners. Other baked products do, too. Shoprite Bowl & Basket Flour Wraps, Catalia Honey Flavored 100% Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas and Private Selection Brioche Extra Large Sandwich Buns all contain sucralose.

Some baked and wheat-based products contain more than one artificial sweetener. Both Signature Kitchens Enriched Wheat Bread Buttermilk and Alaninu Fruity Flavored Whey Protein Cereal contain sucralose and acesulfame potassium.

Dairy products

Yogurt is a popular snack food, especially for kids, in large part because it’s usually considered healthy. 

But most of the yogurt at a typical grocery store is usually highly processed. Dannon Light Fit Non-Fat Vanilla Greek Yogurt, Yoplait Light Strawberry Yogurt and Axelrod Peach Fat-Free Yogurt are made with sucralose and acesulfame potassium. 

Cottage cheese also can contain artificial sweetener, as with Axelrod Nonfat Cottage Cheese with Added Pineapple, which contains aspartame

Bars and snacks

Processed treats are full of artificial sweeteners.

Pop Secret’s Kettle Corn contains sucralose. Quaker Caramel Rice Crisps contain sucralose and acesulfame potassium.

If your idea of a snack is a big smoothie, some types of protein powder can contain artificial sweeteners, such as Dynamize Nutrition’s version, which contains sucralose. Optimum Nutrition’s Double-Rich Chocolate Whey Protein Powder contains acesulfame protein. 

Candy and other sweets

It’s not surprising that diet versions of sweet treats contain artificial sweeteners. What’s more unexpected is that so do “regular” – that is, non-diet – sweetened products. In fact, they often contain more than one artificial sweetener. 

Hill & Valley Premium Bakery Blueberry Sliced Creme Cake contains acesulfame potassium and sucralose. 

Three kinds of high-intensity sweetener – aspartame, acesulfame potassium and sucralose – can be found in Enjoy Lemon Peel Gummy Bears, and that’s in addition to the corn syrup, glucose, sugar and brown sugar they also contain. Dove Peanut Butter Milk Chocolate Silky Smooth Pie Filling is made with sugar and also contains aspartame and acesulfame potassium.

Gelatin products can contain artificial sweeteners, even those that aren’t marketed as a diet food. Skittles Original Flavored Gelatin contains sucralose and acesulfame potassium, in addition to its first ingredient, sugar.

Kozy Shack’s diet rice pudding, Simply Well Rice Pudding Snack Cups, contains sucralose. Fudgesicles No Sugar Added Frozen Dairy Dessert Pops contain aspartame and acesulfame potassium.


For most people, diet soda is the single biggest source of artificial sweeteners. But they’re an ingredient in other types of drinks, too.

Country Time Blueberry Lemon Flavor Drink contains aspartame. 

And Hawaiian Punch Fruit Juicy Red Juice contains sucralose. Arizona Lite Half and Half Iced Tea Lemonade can claim to contain less corn syrup than other products might, because it’s also sweetened with sucralose as well as pear juice concentrate. 

Some drinks contain two or more high-intensity sweeteners. Brisk Lemonade Juice Drink contains sucralose and acesulfame potassium, in addition to high fructose corn syrup.

A “light” drink may well contain one or more artificial sweeteners, in addition to one or more forms of sugar – Schnucks Lite Cranberry Juice Cocktail contains sucralose and acesulfame potassium, as well as fructose. Several flavors of Kroger-brand sparkling water contain neotame, sucralose and acesulfame potassium.

The “rehydration products” Propel Immune Support Fitness Water and Pedialyte contain sucralose and acesulfame potassium.

HEB To-Go Lemonade Drink Mix contains acesulfame potassium and aspartame. Tampico Mango Punch contains neotame, in addition to Ace-K and aspartame.

Other foods with artificial sweeteners

Other foods across the range of grocery products contain artificial sweeteners:

Meat and other savory products. PrairieFresh Honey Sriracha Pork Tenderloin and Bush’s Best Zero Sugar Added Baked Beans contain sucralose. Winsor Bay Coconut Breaded Shrimp contains aspartame. Snowfox Nigiri Sushi and some products from the franchise Sushi With Gusto contain aspartame. 

Tomato sauce. Home cooks sometimes throw a pinch of sugar into their pasta sauce, but you probably don’t assume that packaged sauce contains sugar. And it doesn’t always – some pasta sauce, like Prego Traditional No Sugar Added Pasta Sauce, contains neither sugar nor a substitute. But some claim “no sugar added” and contain artificial sweeteners instead, like Hunt’s Pasta Sauce

Tips to avoid artificial sweeteners

If you want to avoid artificial sweeteners, make sure to study ingredient labels to see which products contain artificial sweeteners, and consult EWG’s Food Scores database for more information about packaged foods. 

In addition, with artificial sweeteners, less is more. Your best options are to drink water rather than soda or other beverages, and eat unprocessed foods as much as possible – beans and lentils, fruit and vegetables, and whole grains.  

Note: Some products mentioned in this article may have been discontinued or reformulated.

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