Aspartame safe at current levels, concludes EFSA

By Nicholas Robinson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Aspartame

EFSA: aspartame consumption at recommended levels does not increase risk of cancer
EFSA: aspartame consumption at recommended levels does not increase risk of cancer
Aspartame posed no threat to consumers at current recommended levels of consumption, the outcome of a recent European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) risk assessment concluded yesterday (December 10).

The opinion, which EFSA said followed “one of the most comprehensive risk assessments of aspartame ever undertaken”,​ was published after a rigorous review of all available scientific research on the controversial sweetener. 

Following the analysis, experts said the current acceptable daily intake (ADI) of 40mg/kg body weight per day (bw/day) was safe for the general population. However, it pointed out that consumers suffering from the medical condition phenylketonuria (PKU) would have to follow a diet low in aspartame. 

“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, chair of EFSA’s panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources Added to Foods (ANS Panel).

Experts on the EFSA panel considered both animal and human studies prior to the publication of their opinion, set to be discussed at an All Party Parliamentary Food & Health forum at the House of Commons this afternoon.

Did not increase risk of cancer

Aspartame did not increase the risk of cancer and did not damage genes, in the opinion of the panel, which also dismissed its potential harm of the brain, nervous system or cognitive functions in children and adults at recommended ADI levels. 

Risks to developing foetuses from exposure to phenylalanine, a component of aspartame, were also denied by the EFSA panel, so long as ADIs were followed and with the exception of pregnant women suffering from PKU. 

The panel also made clear that the breakdown products of aspartame, such as phenylalanine, methanol and aspartic acid, were naturally present in other foods. “The contribution of breakdown products of aspartame to the overall dietary exposure to these substances is low,”​ it said.

Barbara Gallani, director of regulation, science & health at the Food and Drink Federation, welcomed the outcome. “The final opinion issued today by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) once again confirms the safety of the low calorie sweetener aspartame,”​ she said.

‘Reduced calorie choices’

“Low calorie sweeteners like aspartame have an important role to play in enabling food and drink manufacturers to offer consumers reduced calorie choices.”

The EFSA opinion echoed the review of a recent aspartame study​ by the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA’s) Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment, which concluded that it posed no risk to the public at current ADIs.

The study was led by Hull York Medical School and commissioned by the FSA.

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