Day 49. Pink Poison

I’m not a big sweet eater.  My mother couldn’t get enough.  She had chocolate bars stashed everywhere.  But not me.  Even as a child I preferred olives and spicy food to chocolate, cake and candy.

And I still do.  Except when it comes to tea and coffee.  To sweeten my tea I prefer honey.  For coffee it’s Sweet ‘n Low (pink packets).  Yes, I know it’s bad for me.

Or at least it’s purported to be.  I say that, because Sweet ‘n Low is made primarily from granulated saccharin; and in the early seventies there were studies done that showed that lab rats who were given saccharin, got cancer.

Because of this study, saccharin was banned in Canada, where I live.  And here, Sweet ‘n Low is made with sodium cyclamate instead.  But now Canada is considering lifting the ban, because the studies were recently proved faulty; and the ban and warnings have recently also been lifted in other countries.  The original version, in case you’re wondering, has always been available in the U.S.

Apparently sodium cyclamate’s not so good for you, either.  It was banned in the U.S. after a 1967 study stated that, over a two year period, 12 out of 70 lab rats who were given a 2,500 mg dose of it, developed bladder cancer.  I don’t know if you have any idea of how huge a 2,500 mg dose is, but 500 is equal to 30 soft-drink servings.  You do the math.

Anyway, it appears to be a moot point, because it’s now being said that the studies have not been adequately proven in human subjects.  So the ban may be lifted in the U.S.

What do I know?  I’m no scientist.  But what I can conclude from all this is:

  • The quality of our studies seems to leave a lot to be desired (not only as it relates to sweeteners, either).
  • We seem to suffer from premature publication of information (whether it’s research studies or world news).

So who, and what, are we to believe?  And what should we do?

Here’s what I do, at least as far as Sweet ‘n Low is concerned.  Right off the top, I acknowledge that it’s made with chemicals, and it’s probably not the best thing for me.  But then what is?

Our lakes, rivers and oceans are polluted.  The environment’s a mess.  We eat food that’s been sprayed with pesticides.  Animals are fed hormones.  Despite everything we know about the evils of smoking, millions of people still do.  And for those of us who don’t, we’re subjected to their second-hand smoke.  As a society we consume too much sugar and too much fat.  Too much alcohol will kill you; and let’s not get into the perils of drugs.  And, lest we forget, what about stress?  We are stressed out of our minds.  And stress does weaken our immune systems, which makes us vulnerable.  Which, in turn, can make us more susceptible to allergic, autoimmune or cardiovascular diseases.

So really, if I sweeten my one cup of coffee I drink a day, with Sweet ‘n Low, is it going to kill me?  Is it going to kill me any faster than anything else I’ve just mentioned?

In all honesty, I don’t know.  And I’ll wager that neither does anyone else.  Even all the scientists.  Which is one reason why I choose to use it.  The other reason is, I don’t like the alternatives.  To me, Sugar Twin has a funny taste.  And Splenda is way, way too sweet.  I don’t like black coffee; and I don’t want to use sugar.

Which is the reason why I am frustrated with Starbucks.  About a year ago, I started to notice that the Starbucks I frequented the most, was often out of Sweet ‘n Low.  It was occasional, so I didn’t say anything.  It’s happening again, this year, but with much greater frequency, and in more stores.  It has started to piss me off, so a few months ago I asked why it was happening.  I was told they weren’t carrying it, any more.  No reason.

Not that a reason would have necessarily appeased me.  I decided to send an email to Customer Relations.  Within a couple of hours I got a response, apologizing.  I was told that my email was being escalated.  I was pleased when, a couple of days later, Sweet ‘n Low was back in the little bin.  Unfortunately it was short lived.  A week ago it was gone again.  When I asked I was told they no longer have it.

Here’s the thing.  The little bins always have white sugar in them.  The little bins always have raw sugar in them.  The little bins always have Splenda in them.  But even when they were carrying Sweet ‘n Low, that little bin always had to be replenished.  In every one of the four or five Starbucks stores I frequent, on a pretty regular basis.  Yes, I go to Starbucks every single day (I’ve already written a blog post about how I like to write there.)

What would that tell you?  The empty bins, not my writing habits.

I think it is fair to say, that it appears that more Sweet ‘n Low is used in the Starbucks I go to, then any of the alternatives.  More than white sugar.  More than raw sugar.  More than Splenda.

So wouldn’t you think that a Company whose management wanted to keep their customers happy and loyal, would continue to offer Sweet ‘n Low?  I would have thought so.  I don’t know the reason why Starbucks is down on my preferred sweetener.  Maybe they’ve taken it upon themselves to be my guardian angel, and protect my health.  While that’s very noble of them, I think that should be my choice.   But if they’re really serious about health, they might want to start looking at the fat content of the food they sell.  And maybe at least some of the trays and trays of baked goods, could be replaced with apples and oranges and salads.

In the meantime, maybe it’s time I found a new cafe.

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