What is Acesulfame-K?

Posted on 28 Oct 2015 05:08

Acesulfame-K: A non-nutritive, non-caloric sweetener which is also called acesulfame potassium (K stands for potassium). Approximately 130 to 200 times sweeter than table sugar, it is a white, odorless, crystalline substance which is not metabolized by the body. When ingested, it is eliminated unchanged in the urine. Since it is not absorbed and does not provide energy (calories) to the body, it is called a "non-nutritive" sweetener.

Acesulfame potassium was discovered and developed in 1967 by Hoechst AG and approved for use in the U.S. in 1988. It is now marketed by the company's division, Nutrinova Nutrition Specialties & Food Ingredients GimbH under the trademark Sunnet®.

The sweetener is easily soluble in water and stable to acid and heat. It has a metallic, bitter after taste if used in high levels but since it is synergistic with other artificial sweeteners it is normally used in blends with aspartame, sucralose, and others to achieve a high sweetness level. Since it is heat stable it is used in candies, baked goods, and sauces, as well as noncarbonated dry mix drinks, dairy products, alcoholic drinks, chewing gum, instant coffee and tea, puddings and nondairy creamers.

Acesulfame-K is a typical sweetener used in whey protein powder products, and other protein products, marketed to body builders and athletes. It also is available as stand-alone sweetening products such as Sweet One® or Swiss Sweet® although these products are not as popular as other packet products, such as NutraSweet®.

Unlike some nonnutritive sweeteners, the sweetness of acesulfame-K has a rapid onset, perceived immediately and the sweet taste does not typically linger.

Acesuflame-K is prepared by reacting sulfamic acid diketene, the result of which undergoes cyclization to the acid form of acesulfame, to which is added potassium hydroxide to produce a neutral salt. It is considered nontoxic and noncarcinogenic, endorsed for use by the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives by the WHO and FAO and the Scientific Committee for Foods of the European Union, approved in over 100 countries. The FDA sets it's Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI)1 at 15mgs per kilogram of body weight, or around 25 to 30 cans of diet soda containing acesulfame potassium.

This product may be useful for diabetes management.

Need general resources for this type of information? Try Understanding Food: Principles and Preparation by Amy Brown.


  • 6-Methyl-1,2,3-oxathiazin-4(3H)-one 2,2-dioxide potassium salt
  • Acesulfame potassium
  • C4H4KNO4S
  • NCGC00090729-01
  • potassium 3-methyl-5,5-dioxo-4-oxa-5$l^{6}-thia-6-azanidacyclohex-2-en-1-one
  • potassium 5,5-diketo-3-methyl-4-oxa-5$l^{6}-thia-6-azanidacyclohex-2-en-1-one
  • potassium 6-methyl-4-oxo-4H-1,2,3-oxathiazin-3-ide 2,2-dioxide

Does Acesulfame Potassium Contain Methylene Chloride, a Known Carcinogen?

There is a widespread claim on the internet and in many books that acesulfame potassium contains methylene chloride, which is a known carcinogen. Interestingly, almost every source that makes this claims contains almost the exact same statement in the exact same words, without any elaboration or evidence to back up the claim.

The FDA addresses the possibility that acesulfame potassium may contain this chemical as in impurity. Some sources, like Joseph Mercola, use some of the FDA's statement, to back up fear-mongering claims about the product, but conventionally do not include the entire claim, but only the part that suits their purpose.

Here is the full statement, from 21 CFR Part 172, Food Additives Permitted for Direct Addition to Food for Human Consumption; Acesulfame Potassium:

Methylene chloride, a carcinogenic chemical, is a potential impurity in ACK resulting from its use as a solvent in the initial manufacturing step of the sweetener. Data previously submitted in FAP 0A4212 show that methylene chloride could not be detected in the final product at a limit of detection (LOD) of 40 parts per billion (ppb) as discussed in the July 6, 1998, final rule (63 FR 36344 at 36346). In the past, FDA has assumed that methylene chloride is present in ACK at the LOD of 40 ppb (worst-case scenario) and has evaluated its safety by performing a risk assessment for methylene chloride based on this level. No new information has been received to change FDA's previous risk assessment for methylene chloride. Moreover, FDA does not expect that methylene chloride will be present in ACK due to the following factors: (1) The multi-step purification process used in the manufacture of ACK and (2) the volatility of methylene chloride (Ref. 1).1

See also What is Acesulfame Potassium Doing in Whey Protein Products? - Video Presentation.

1. Food and Drug Administration. "Food Additives Permitted for Direct Addition to Food for Human Consumption; Acesulfame Potassium." FDA. Web. 13 Mar. 2012. ,http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/98fr/03-32101.htm.
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