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EU Food Safety Group: Aspartame Safe at Current Consumption Levels

After completing its “first full risk assessment” of aspartame and associated breakdown products, a European Union food-safety group has concluded that the controversial artificial sweetener is safe for human consumption at current levels of exposure.

However, a panel of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) noted that, while the current Acceptable Daily Intake of 40 mg/kg bw/day for aspartame (50 mg/kg in the U.S.) is “protective for the general population,” that amount is not applicable for those suffering from phenylketonuria (PKU), which requires a diet low in the amino acid phenylalanine (one of the breakdown products).

“This opinion represents one of the most comprehensive risk assessments of aspartame ever undertaken. It’s a step forward in strengthening consumer confidence in the scientific underpinning of the EU food safety system and the regulation of food additives,” said Dr. Alicja Mortensen, head of EFSA’s Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources Added to Foods.

The EFSA panel, based in Parma, Italy, said that it reviewed all evidence from human and animal studies and ruled out the potential risk of aspartame causing damage to genes and inducing cancer, harming the brain or nervous system, or affecting behavior or cognitive function in children or adults.

The European Commission requested the EFSA review in May 2011, and the panel’s scientific opinion was released on Tuesday, Dec. 10.

Diet drink manufacturers were likely to welcome the EFSA panel’s opinion, including The Coca-Cola Co., which uses aspartame in Diet Coke and Coke Zero, and PepsiCo, which uses aspartame in Diet Pepsi.

Diet drink sales have recently slipped in the U.S. as concerns over the safety of artificial sweeteners such as aspartame repeatedly crop up. In a recent beverage industry article, Coca-Cola Americas President Steve Cahillane admitted that the company was “under a bit of pressure” from consumers who continue to question the safety of ingredients in its diet products.

Others were quick to criticize the EFSA panel’s opinion. The Center for Science in the Public Interest called the EFSA review a “whitewash” and charged that panel members ignored studies showing that aspartame causes cancer in laboratory animals.

“Three large, independent studies that found a link between aspartame and cancer are far more reliable than inferior industry-funded studies that do not even meet current standards and did not find a link,” said CSPI senior scientist Lisa Lefferts in a statement released Tuesday. “Yet the EFSA dismissed the independent studies, effectively whitewashing valid safety concerns. Aspartame just isn’t worth the risk it poses to consumers.”

The U.K-based Alliance for Natural Health International asserts that aspartame is an addictive neurotoxin that may cause cancer, and that its byproducts, including formaldehyde and others, have been associated in animal studies with increased brain tumors, as well as neurological, behavioral and gastrointestinal side effects in humans.

Aspartame, sometimes identified as E951 on product labels, is sold under these brand names: NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, Equal-Measure, Canderel and others. It is about 200 times sweeter than sugar and is used in more than 6,000 food products around the world.

Aspartame was accidentally discovered by a G.D. Searle scientist in 1965, FDA approved it for human food use in 1981, and it was approved EU-wide in 1994. The patent (owned by Monsanto after it bought Searle) expired in 1992.

© Food Safety News
  • Emily73

    Aspartame, made by Donald Rumsfeld’s company, was only approved after Reagan was elected. I was studying food science in 1980, and my professors said it would never be approved because there were too many medical issues with that stuff. Then the 1980 election happened, and poof! Coincidence? Ha!

  • annon

    I don’t care what they say….I am still not going to use this product or its derivatives.

  • Barb3000

    What I understand about this stuff is that the chemicals it is made from are related to the same ones that are used in pesticides. Use of these in food products could be the reason that cancer can’t seem to be wiped out after all the research that has been going on for decades

  • Bottom line is, a lot of us are ALLERGIC to it. The stuff causes migraines in other people. It is a neurotoxin. Get rid of it. Use Stevia.

  • Wayne Fogel

    I try to limit the chemicals in my food to the ones I know mightl kill me rather then the ones that I don’t know will kill me!

  • Leah Dunn

    Aspartame is safe…..raw milk isn’t. Thanks for clearing that up FDA!

  • Daniel B

    I am a Canadian living in Nice, France. They just broadcast a television programme here, Dec. 19, 2013, called “Envoye Special”. The subject discussed was “conflict of interests”. We are told that the EFSA panel which deemed aspartame safe was composed of unbiased authoritative experts. However, the broadcast goes on to show that one woman there once worked for Coca-Cola and the biggest manufacturer of aspartame in Europe. It even showed that, at one point, a certain preparatory part of this meeting/conference by EFSA was sponsored by Coca-Cola (in nice very small letters). When this woman was approached by the journalist with questions, she was rudely abrupt and said that any questions should be referred to the EFSA and then she fled. I am diabetic and will continue to consume aspartame but this was sure an eye-opener.

  • Weight Loss Guru

    There are many underlying issues here, it’s frightening. It just shows that we should be even more vigilant when we go food shopping. Fresh fruit and vegetables, and a healthy exercise plan is a good place to start. Have a look at http://www.weightlossfooddelivery.net/