The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

Non-animal Coal Filters Used to Process Cane Sugar in Australia

Posted on December 19, 2012 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS
VRG Research Director

An online reader asked us if a cow bone char filter is used in the manufacture of SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener (a brand name for sucralose), an artificial sweetener found in a wide variety of foods and beverages.

According to http://www.splenda.com/faq/no-calorie-sweetener#3, SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener is made “…through a patented, multi-step process that starts with sugar and converts it to a no-calorie, non-carbohydrate sweetener. The process selectively replaces three hydrogen-oxygen groups on the sugar molecule with three chlorine atoms.” http://www.splenda.com/faq/no-calorie-sweetener#19 also indicates that SPLENDA® contains small amounts of dextrose and/or maltodextrin (VRG note: both usually corn-derived).

Tate & Lyle, the British creator and current major manufacturer of SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener, describes its production methods on its website. http://www.tateandlyle.com/aboutus/ourindustry/pages/sucralose.aspx
This page specifies that the company “…uses ordinary granulated sugar, similar to that used in the home, as the starting material.”

A specialist in the technical resource division for bulk ingredients at Tate & Lyle in August, 2012 when talking about SPLENDA® told us that “no animal-sourced carbon is used in the processing of the sugar or the manufacturing process of our sucralose.”

The Tate & Lyle resource specialist told us by phone in October 2012 that he had contacted his supplier and was told that “…no bone char is used. The cane sugar comes from Australia and is further processed in Singapore.”

In November 2012 The VRG contacted CSR/Sugar Australia, http://www.sugaraustralia.com.au/, a company which described itself to us by email as “…the leading supplier of quality refined sugar products. We service the industrial and consumer sugar market and market the CSR Sugar brand. Sugar Australia produces over 700,000 tons of refined sugar a year, from our two refineries in Melbourne and Mackay.

Refined sugar is produced from raw sugar and the Australian raw sugar industry is one of the largest in the world. The Australian industry produces 4.6 million [metric] tons (10.1 billion pounds) of raw sugar annually and over 70 percent of this is exported. Sugar Australia is the largest domestic customer of Australian raw sugar, and the largest exporter of Australian refined sugar.” (By comparison according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/crops/sugar-sweeteners/background.aspx, the United States produces approximately 3.6 million short tons (7.2 billion pounds) of raw sugarcane annually.)

Sugar Australia also told us that they “…export to many different countries; however, we do not export to South or North America.”
When asked about their decolorization methods, Sugar Australia told us that “[O]ur CSR/Sugar Australia refined white sugar is made at our Sugar Australia refineries in Melbourne, Victoria, and Mackay, Queensland. Both sites use a number of purification steps towards converting the bulk non-food grade raw sugar into the food grade white refined sugar product. The major decolourising step uses granular activated carbon that is derived from coal. This replaced the bone charcoal decolourisation step (which used to use roasted cow bones) that was used until about 1990.

I assume your concern is in relation to the use of animal products. I can state that no animal products at all are used in the sugar refining process by us.

We also have Halal certification and Kosher certifications for our range of sugar products.”

The VRG contacted the Australian Vegetarian Society to see if they could confirm our findings. The AVS president received a reply from Sugar Australia to his inquiry: “I would like to know if you use cow bone char as a refining process, or indeed if you use any animal products at any stage of processing.”

Narelle in the Customer Service Department at Sugar Australia in November 2012 replied to AVS: “I can confirm that we do not use any animal products in our refining process. We use carbon in our processes however this is not sourced from any animal products or byproducts.”

We also asked JK Sucralose, Inc., http://www.jksucralose.com/, the second major sucralose company based in China. An employee at the New Jersey office of JK Sucralose told The VRG by phone in July 2012 that “cane sugar is always used.” No further information was available on how the cane sugar used to make sucralose was processed.

Interested readers may find our 2007 sugar article of interest: http://www.vrg.org/journal/vj2007issue4/2007_issue4_sugar.php. In this article, The VRG reported that leading sugar companies in the United States process most cane sugar through cow bone char filters in order to decolorize it.

The contents of this article, our website, and our other publications, including The Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company employees or company statements. Information does change and mistakes are always possible. Please use your own best judgment about whether a product is suitable for you. Further research or confirmation may be warranted.

To purchase our Guide to Food Ingredients, please visit our website: http://www.vrg.org/catalog/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1&products_id=8

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