New Zealand Food Safety Authority is confident of aspartame safety
5 July 2007
Recent media reports may have raised unnecessary
concerns for consumers about the safety of aspartame used as a low energy
sweetener in many common products and need to be addressed, says the New
Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA).
NZFSA has a role to provide
accurate information on the safety of food sold in New Zealand, so people are
able to make informed choices about what they eat. Misleading or unsubstantiated
claims about a particular food can create fear and quite unnecessary concerns
for consumers, says Sandra Daly, NZFSAs Deputy Chief Executive.
Aspartame is probably one of the most studied products on sale today,
and there is an extensive body of evidence that tells us it is a safe product
that offers consumers a sweet low-calorie option in their diet.
media reports about possible reactions to large doses of aspartame from chewing
gum, and reports of a study by the Italian Ramazzini Foundation which link
aspartame with cancer, are not consistent with the findings of a large number of
studies over many years which have been evaluated by leading food safety
agencies around the world.
The United Kingdom Food Standards Agency, the
US Food and Drug Administration and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)
have all recently reconfirmed their confidence in the safety of
NZFSA continually assesses the weight of sound, scientific
evidence that surrounds the use of all products, including aspartame. We can
find no scientific basis for claims that the product is not safe to consume in
Aspartame is an intense sweetener about 200
times sweeter than sugar and has been used in soft drinks and other
low-calorie or sugar-free foods around the world for the past 25 years.
Extensive studies have shown that, even if taken in high doses, the
metabolites of this sweetener do not accumulate in toxic amounts. An adult would
have to consume 14 cans of a sugar-free drink every day before reaching the
acceptable daily intake (ADI) of aspartame. And they would need to do that every
day of their lives before possibly showing any ill-effects.
much of any one thing is not good for you even those we consume every day,
such as coffee, carrots and cake, says Ms Daly.
Anybody who wants to
avoid foods containing aspartame can identify its presence from the label.
Consumers can make informed choices because food manufacturers are required to
list food additives and other ingredients, including sweeteners, on
Certain people with the genetic disease phenylketonuria (PKU),
and pregnant women with high blood levels of phenylalanine have a problem with
aspartame because they do not effectively metabolise the amino acid
phenylalanine, one of aspartame's components. All New Zealand babies have a
heel-prick test to identify this genetic disease and all products containing
aspartame must include a warning for phenylketonurics that the sweetener
For everybody else, aspartame provides a safe
alternative to sugar.