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Ahead to Gatorade 22. When Government Regulations Intervene

Toxicity concerns with the artificial sweetener sent the inventors "back to the drawing board". Their carefully balanced sports drink was developed with materials allowed for use, but now FDA is banning cyclamates. What is the responsible decision? How do we now use the chemical principles.


Gatorade 21. Stokeley's Response.

Gatorade® suffered a difficult commercial introduction in the late 1960s. Within a year after the beverage was marketed by Stokeley-VanCamp, its manufacturers had toreformulate the product and remove its entire earlier product from market. Unanticipated new regulations enacted by the United States Food and Drug Administration(FDA) forced immediate reformulation to remove the artificial sweetener sodium cyclamate from Gatorade®.

Artificial sweeteners like saccharin, nutrasweet and the cyclamates, provide sugar-like taste. And they are far sweeter than the sugars themselves. Small amounts of these synthetic chemicals can replace sugars. Artificial sweeteners provide taste properties for those who wish to reduce calories, or those with illnesses like diabetes whose bodies cannot tolerate sugars.

The artificial sweetener, saccharine, was discovered accidentally in the 19th century. A chemist tasted sweetness on his hands. His observation led to the identification of a particular chemical 500 times sweeter than sugar, which has served as a substitute for sugar for more than 100 years.

When Dr. Cade and his associates formulated Gatorade® with Stokeley-VanCamp they chose a newer, second sweetener, sodium cyclamate, to make the drink attractive. Sodium cyclamate is only 30 times sweeter than sugar, but most people found cyclamates tasted better than saccharin. Saccharin leaves a rather metallic aftertaste with many users.

Within a year after Gatorade® was on the shelves, the FDA learned of toxicity studies carried out with sodium cyclamate. In these tests, cyclamates were fed to mice at various amounts, amounts well above the level of reasonable human consumption of the sweetener. But the mice contracted bladder cancer at a rate that was higher than the rate of similar cancers in animals not receiving cyclamates. While the bladder cancers in mice in no way predicted human response, the FDA took a cautious position.  In October 1969, FDA announced cyclamates would be prohibited in foods and beverages after January 1, 1970.

Stokeley-VanCamp faced an enormous business problem. Dr. Cade's group guided Stokeley-VanCamp to replace the cyclamates by reducing the quickly metabolized, but not sweet, glucose and adding the sweet disaccharide, fructose.   Thus they gave up some of the rapid energy available by the oxidation of the simple sugar in order to provide sweetness.

Gatorade®'s commercial success seems at first to be the result of an initial scientific invention followed by decades of marketing, without any dependence on science or  the law. But the conditions governing business change and they may change extraordinarily fast. Gatorade® was reformulated with dramatic speed. Relying on the scientists who originated the product, Stokeley-VanCamp redirected the product in the face of unanticipated bad news. They began to take action to convert their invention to a product.  They sought a commercial beverage manufacturer to make and sell the product.  And they filed patents to protect their invention so they would have exclusive rights to Gatorade.

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