What is Neotame (E961) in Food and Uses? Neotame vs Aspartame

Production | Uses | Benefits | Safety | Side effects 

Neotame, a derivative of aspartame, is a new generation artificial sweetener with the European food additive number E961. It is approximately 6000 times sweeter than sugar, commonly used as a sugar replacement in food and drink with the advantage of heat stability, no-calorie, zero glycemic index, and safe to people with PKU.

How is it made?

Generally, neotame is produced by the reaction between aspartame and 3,3-dimethylbutyraldehyde under hydrogen pressure. Other raw materials involved in the reactions are methanol (solvent), palladium/carbon (catalyst), and diatomaceous earth (food grade may be used as a filtering aid). (1)

Here is the synthesis reaction:

neotame manufacturing process

Image Source

Specification

Other names N-(N-(3,3-Dimethylbutyl)-L-alpha-aspartyl)-L-phenylalanine 1-methyl ester
CAS number 165450-17-9
Chemical formula C20H30N2O5
Molecular Weight 378.47

Properties

Appearance

A white, crystalline powder or granular with a clean, sweet taste. 

Structure

neotame chemical structure

Image Source

Its name comes from its molecular structure, a 6-carbon neohexyl group attached to the amine nitrogen of aspartame. 

Solubility

Sparingly soluble in water (solubility in water, 12.6g/L at 25℃, aspartame is 10g/L) and very soluble in alcohol. 

Stable than aspartame

Heat stable in 100℃, and can be used at high temperatures for cooking and baking while aspartame cannot. This advantage also enables it to be used in the process of pasteurization and high temperature sterilization, but it would be decomposed if exposed for a long time at 120℃.

Sweetness

It is the sweetest among the category of artificial sweeteners. The following are the sweetness comparison among artificial sweeteners:

  • Table sugar 1 (as the base)
  • Sodium cyclamate 50
  • Aspartame 200
  • Acesulfame k 200
  • Sodium saccharin 300
  • Sucralose 600
  • Neotame 6000

Tastes and aftertaste

Taste like sugar, without a bitter, or metallic aftertaste, making it the optimal sugar replacement to use in food and drink products.

What’re the Uses of Neotame?

Since it is 6,000 sweet than sugar, only a very low amount is needed to sweeten the low/reduced-calorie food and drink. Meanwhile, it has better heat stability over aspartame, and thus can be used in cooking and baking products where aspartame cannot.

Neotame is also used to strengthen the sweetness in the blends with other high-intensity sweeteners.

The following food list may contain neotame:

  • Chewing gum
  • Carbonated soft drinks
  • Tabletop sweeteners
  • Frozen desserts, yogurt
  • Baked goods
  • Preserved fruits
  • Salad dressings

Bakery

The property of heat-tolerant makes it ideal for baking applications, such as in cookies, cakes and muffins.

Beverages

Stable in carbonated drinks and can be used in powdered drinks and juices to lower the sugar content and reduce the calorie intake while maintaining the sweet taste.

Table top sweeteners

Without hygroscopicity makes it suitable as a sweetener in table-top sweeteners. 

Confectionery

This ingredient can be used together with sugar alcohols in confectionery products, such as chocolates, gums, and candies.

Dairy

The stability in high temperature short time can be utilized to produce dairy products, such as yogurts, desserts, and ice creams.

What are the Benefits of Neotame?

Likewise other sugar substitutes, there are main three benefits for neotame:

  • Zero calories
  • Zero glycemic index
  • Safer for people with PKU, compared with aspartame

Zero calories

This property can be applied in food applications to replace sugar to control daily calorie intake. 

Zero glycemic index

Its intake will not raise the blood sugar level and insulin response, which can help diabetic keep their blood sugar and thus suitable as a sweetener in their diet. 

Safe for Phenylketonurics (PKU)

It is safer for people who suffer from phenylketonuria (PKU) as it doesn’t produce l-phenylalanine (or very little) during the process of metabolism, while aspartame does.

Is Neotame Safe to Eat?

Yes, this non-nutritive sweetener has been approved as a safe ingredient by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), as well as Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA).   

FDA

Neotame may be safely used as a sweetener and flavor enhancer in food (2). The ADI is 0.3mg/kg bw/d. (3)

EFSA

Neotame (E961) is listed in Commission Regulation (EU) No 231/2012 as an authorised food additive and categorized in “Sweeteners” (4).

Safety re-evaluation in 2007

After the studies of genotoxicity, carcinogenicity, teratogenicity, reproductive and developmental toxicity, along with the degradation products researches, EFSA concluded it was not of safety concern when neotame is intended to be used as a sweetener and flavour enhancer and an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of 0-2 mg/kg bw/day was established. (5)

Approved uses

  • When used as a sweetener, neotame is commonly used in energy-reduced or no-added-sugar products with the maximum usage ranges from 2-200mg/kg; or the use levels are “quantum satis” in table-top sweeteners in liquid/powder/tablets.
  • When used as a flavour enhancer, its maximum usage is 2mg/kg. (6)

UK Food Standards Agency

Categorized in “Sweeteners” (7)

Food Standards Australia New Zealand 

It is approved ingredient in Australia and New Zealand with the code number 961. (8)

JECFA 

Function Class: food additives, sweetener, flavor enhancer. (9

Acceptable daily intake: ADI “0-2mg/kg bw” set in 2003. (10)

What are the possible Side Effects of Neotame?

Is neotame has some health concerns as aspartame? The fact is that it almost has no reported side effects due to the very few phenylalanine it generated, compared with aspartame.

Considering the major metabolic pathway of neotame in humans is de-esterification to NC-00751 and methanol (11), and the low use levels in food, that make the content of the metabolite – l-phenylalanine very little in our body, which is safer for people with PKU.

Metabolism of neotame

Metabolism of neotame, Image source

Neotame vs Aspartame

Generally, there are mainly four points about their difference:

  1. Heat stability: defines some applications
  2. Price: neotame’s price around 1/3 of aspartame
  3. PKU: mentioned above
  4. Possible side effects: there are many possible adverse effects around aspartame

The top USA manufacturer – Nutrasweet closed its aspartame factory in 2014, due to the fierce price competition from China, plus the possible dangers (12). Now Nutrasweet is the top neotame brand.

Conclusion

Now you may have a knowledge of the artificial sweetener – neotame (E961), from the following aspects:

  • Production process
  • Uses
  • Safety
  • Benefits
  • Comparison with aspartame in uses, metabolism and safety

I’m probably forgetting some information, and if you have any questions or remarks about this additive, feel free to let me know in the comments.

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