* Studies have linked aspartame to cancer, premature births
* EFSA says one of most extensive assessments yet
BRUSSELS Dec 10 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
In August, the company took out newspaper adverts in its
home city of Atlanta to address consumer fears over the safety
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.