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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Lactose in Sweeteners

A long, long time ago, before the Net - yes, kiddies, such a dark age did exist - doctors' offices would give out sheets of information on products containing lactose.

I never found out where the information in these sheets came from. Probably they emanated from whatever the equivalent of old wives' tales and urban legends were in medical schools. They were usually inaccurate, misleading, and overly scary.

Most of them had a notation that sugar substitutes contained lactose.

If that was ever true, few commercial substitutes with lactose were on the market even back in 1984 when I wrote my first book on lactose intolerance. As far as I know, those too went away and the problem didn't exist, to all intents and purposes, for over 20 years.

But food technology changes, and old established brands mutate into new forms.

On a recent trip to a supermarket, I found new versions of both Splenda and Equal on the shelves. Splenda Minis and Equal Tablets come in pocket-sized dispensers, perfect for holding over a cup of coffee or unsweetened ice tea or anything that will dissolve a tiny tablet's worth of sugar equivalent.

Handy, but.

The same technology must be involved in both cases because the first ingredients - before the sucralose in Splenda's case and before the aspartame in Equal - is... lactose.

None of their other variations in granular or packet form contain lactose, and I checked several other competitors and found no lactose there either. It's only in the tablets.

These are truly tiny tablets. We're talking maybe 5 mm or 3/16 of an inch. The amount of lactose in any one tablet is so small that they can still legitimately claim that the tablets have 0 calories.

Still, I think you should know. The addition of lactose means that the tablets cannot be considered vegan and they are no longer pareve. Those with dairy allergies who avoid the presence of lactose in medications should also avoid these tablets.

A useful item. Just not for everyone.

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