5. NutraSweet Case Study Exercise

You will act in small groups to evaluate science and decisions about NutraSweet.  You will balance the science and product history of the sweetener with the claims of some individuals that the artificial product is indeed harmful.

You are required to set up your own Internet Relay Chat (IRC) groups within the class.

Consider the following conceptual statements:

Concept 1:  Scientifically Valid Methods can be employed to Determine Product Safety.
Concept 2:  U.S. Government Regulations are usually effective in controlling Safety of Foods and Drugs.
Concept 3:   Most Companies know and act on the principles that Safe, Effective Products best serve their interests.
Concept 4:  Many Products are brought to market with Careless Disregard or Open Hostility to Principles of Safety and Efficacy.

1. Form groups of 4-5 students.  Use IRC chat to develop your thinking about these four concepts.  Are they reasonable statements of your existing beliefs?  Are they overstatements requiring modifications.  As groups, you should develop and publish your position on these concepts.

2.  Given your position on the above concepts, consider the following. Act as if you  manufacture NutraSweet and sell to the beverage industry. 

You have met all the standards FDA requires for sweeteners.   You have a 25-year record of use with a few complaints, but none of these has caused the FDA to question your product.

With the advent of the Internet, you find a number of groups use the World Wide Web to claim that your sweetener is unsafe.

Individuals claim your sweetener causes brain tumors and that there is a conspiracy between you and beverage manufacturers to keep on using NutraSweet in spite of its toxic properties.

Further, some groups act as libraries of data from people who also claim to have been injured. 

You do continuing toxicological research and you have statisticians look into the claims of tumors.  Your scientific consultants find no link between NutraSweet and disease when they look at the data.

How should you respond?

Set up an IRC Chat Site and invite discussions with the public on the safety of NutraSweet.  Record the results of your discussions.  Do not represent yourself as a manufacturer, represent yourself as a citizen/group with the positions you have agreed upon above.

End of this ChemCase

Sections in this ChemCase

NutraSweet Concept Map
Biomolecular Concepts
Physical-Chemical Concepts
Food Additives
Chemical Commerce
NutraSweet Case Study Exercise

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Principal Investigator Laurence Peterson; Project Director Matthew Hermes.
Author of this module Sam Stradling.