Aspartame fears rejected

Food safety authority says aspartame is not linked to cancer

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By  Lynne Nolan Published  May 31, 2006

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has rejected scientific findings that said food and drinks containing the food sweetener aspartame increased the risk of cancer. Scientists from the Independent European Ramazzini Foundation, an Italian cancer research body, presented results from a three-year study on 1800 rats. The research stated that aspartame is a “multi-potential carcinogen, causing a dose-related increase in leukaemia and lymphoma in female rats, and a dose-related increase in incidences of cancer.” Found in over 6000 products, including soft drinks, juices, sweets, cereals, yoghurts, and snack foods, aspartame arrived on the market 25 years ago. It is estimated that aspartame accounts for 62% of the sweetening agents market. The association for leading soft drinks companies such as Coca Cola, PepsiCo and Cadbury Schweppes; Unesda Industies, welcomed the EFSA ruling. “This is good news but there is now a more urgent need to reassure consumers of the safety of aspartame and that it has been seriously analysed. An atmosphere had been created because of a lack of peer reviews of the study,” commented Alain Beaumont, secretary-general, Unesda Industry Association. “When news of the study was unveiled, it affected and provoked fear in the catering industry and among all those using the ingredient. But we welcome further confirmation from the EFSA of the safety of the sweetener as an important tool in the fight against obesity,” he added. Ajinomoto, one of the largest manufacturers of aspartame, was one of the first companies to react to the announcement, saying that the research raised ill-founded fears. It also added that aspartame is made from amino acids and is therefore broken down into common dietary components. “When the initial findings of the Ramazzini study were released, we were concerned as our company sells food ingredients, sweeteners and powder to the catering industry. We had to try to handle the situation by producing correct documents emphasising its safety,” commented Misbah Ghandour, general manager, Middle East Food Ingredients. “We try not to make a fuss about alarms after scientific studies, as assurances given from the US Food and Drug Administration gives us complete confidence that our products do not put consumers in danger,” Ghandour added. The EFSA rejected the study saying there was no need to revise the acceptable daily intake of aspartame, which is a maximum of 40mg/kg of body weight. Widely used across the Middle East, the EFSA also commented that it found no evidence that aspartame was responsible for the increased risk of cancer in humans.

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