EU food safety body sees no new health risk from aspartame

Tue Dec 10, 2013 6:39am EST

* Studies have linked aspartame to cancer, premature births

* EFSA says one of most extensive assessments yet

BRUSSELS Dec 10 (Reuters) - The artificial sweetener aspartame - widely used in low-calorie soft drinks - poses no health risks at currently approved consumption levels, the European Union's food safety watchdog said on Tuesday.

The finding by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) will be seen as a victory for companies such as The Coca-Cola Co., which uses aspartame in Diet Coke, Coke Zero and other products.

In August, the company took out newspaper adverts in its home city of Atlanta to address consumer fears over the safety of aspartame.

Studies have linked aspartame to health risks, including cancer and premature birth, and have been blamed for a drop in sales of diet soda in the United States.

But food safety regulators on both sides of the Atlantic have called these results into question, citing data gaps in the studies and other concerns.

In its latest scientific review, Parma, Italy-based EFSA said it had found no evidence of safety concerns at the current EU "acceptable daily intake" (ADI) level for aspartame of 40 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) of body weight.

"This opinion represents one of the most comprehensive risk assessments of aspartame ever undertaken," Alicja Mortensen, chairwoman of EFSA's Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources Added to Foods (ANS Panel), said in a statement.

"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."

A can of diet soda usually contains about 180 milligrams of aspartame, which means that an adult weighing 75 kilograms would need to drink more than 16 cans per day to exceed the EU's ADI level. The U.S. ADI level is slightly higher at 50 mg/kg.

Aspartame is approximately 200 times sweeter than sugar and is also sold under the brand name NutraSweet. It was first granted EU-wide approval for food use in 1994 and has been subject to several reviews by EU and national regulators.

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (3)
georgebonbon wrote:
Why bother with artificial sweeteners there are healthier organic sweeteners such as Stevia made from the leaves of the stevia plant. It tastes very much like sugar with no calories and no sugar.

Dec 10, 2013 10:05am EST  --  Report as abuse
eagreenhalgh wrote:
Aspartame must be considered like second hand smoke. The tobacco industry, very similar to the companies promoting aspartame , decried cancer warnings for years , and down played studies citing the dangers of second hand smoke.They used lobby pressure to prevent studies from exposing the dangers and used paid studies to poo poo the dangers. Only now do we understand that prolonged low levels of various toxins as very dangerous , but if the studies are not widely covered and promoted , then the dangers will not be exposed. If these studies were made and demonstrated dangers , then the liability to the industry would be huge, and Donald Rumsfeld would not only be liable for class action law suits, but could be criminally indicted too. As a scientist (E. A. Greenhalgh, myself ) who has been black listed for exposing fraud and dangers to the public, you must understand that I have asked for government documents that expose research that caused NIH fraud that are officially naming the research as so bad it is feces ( street term ). The Canadian government has not released the documents . Recently we have found out with the billion dollar fine against GSK for Paxil suicides that companies do sponsor fake – pre determined studies to promote their products for profit .And the government of Canada promoted studies which said asbestos was safe in order to make profit from selling asbestos . Until REAL scientific studies are widely supported as in second hand smoke, the public must fear for their safety and the very governments which are supposed to be protecting them must be seen to be in a criminal conspiracy ( legal definition ) to exploit them so friends can profit .

Dec 11, 2013 2:09am EST  --  Report as abuse
maureen_aba wrote:
We are pleased with today’s opinion from the European Food Safety Authority confirming – once again – that aspartame is safe for consumption by the general population, including pregnant women. This opinion, which is based on one of the most comprehensive risk assessments of aspartame to-date, further supports decades of scientific research as well as the positions of regulatory agencies around the globe, including FDA. Furthermore, these experts concluded that aspartame does not cause cancer, harm the brain or nervous system or affect behavior or cognitive function in children or adults.

Dec 11, 2013 12:43pm EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.