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HMRC internal manual

VAT Food

Items benefiting from the relief: what is food?: food ingredients and additives: artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are often used to replace sugars, either as sweetening tablets or powders sold retail for use in the home or as ingredients in manufactured foods. Unlike sugar, they can be tolerated by diabetics and have little or no calorific value, either because they are not metabolised by the body at all or, being so much sweeter than sugar, are used in very small quantities. They are all zero-rated.

  • Saccharin, which is synthesised from coal tar, is the most widely used. It is sold for domestic use under such brand names as Hermesetas and Saxin.
  • Sorbitol is a natural product occurring in some fruits, such as plum and apricot. It can also be tolerated by diabetics and so is widely used in the manufacture of diabetic foods, particularly jams and preserves.
  • Aspartame is some 100-200 times sweeter than sugar. However, as it is protein-based, it is not heat-stable and loses its sweetness on prolonged cooking. It is marketed for retail sale under such brand names as Candarel and Nutrasweet.
  • Monellin is a relatively new natural sweetening product, some 3,000 times sweeter than sugar.
  • Thaumatin is similarly a natural product and is 2,500 times sweeter than sugar.