Remember what I said about whether an item can be produced by low-tech means? Artificial sweeteners are just that – artificial. They are manufactured in a laboratory, making them inherently “not food.” That includes some of the better-known sweeteners, as well as sucralose (known by the brand name Splenda®), which is often presented as something of a “variation on sugar” because they start with a sugar molecule in the lab.
When reading labels, any ingredient that ends in -ose indicates some form of sugar (although it may be a natural sugar). For instance, dextrose, maltose, and sucrose are all sugars. A couple label hints that a product may contain artificial sweeteners are “sugar free” (not always, but usually, so this always alerts me to be extra-careful about checking the ingredient list) and the warning “phenylketonurics: contains phenalalanine.” (Phenalalanine is an amino acid – a protein component – that people with this rare genetic disorder can’t process. The warning on a label virtually always indicates the presence of aspartame, though.)