Aspartame, the controversial sweetener, has been cleared of any health concerns in a study produced by the Food Standards Agency’s Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer products and the Environment (COT).
The results of this study have preempted the verdict from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) over whether the high intensity sweetener poses any health risks to the public. The COT’s review states “the results presented did not indicate any need for action to protect the health of the public”.
This research focused solely on the claims from people that had self-diagnosed that aspartame caused them to have adverse reactions, such as headaches or nausea. To conduct the study, scientists gave participants cereal bars that contained the sweetener and recorded and effects they encountered from eating them. Aspartame bears the designated E-Number E951.
The participants of the study had previously reported adverse reactions after consuming food products containing the sweetener as well as people who had never experienced any problems with aspartame. The volunteers randomly ate a selection of cereal bars that had a similar taste but not all contained the sweetener.
The study has now been submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal and the full details have been withheld until it has been published.
In January, the EFSA launched a full public consultation into the safety of aspartame after publishing a draft scientific opinion which stated that it presented “no toxicity” to consumers at current levels of use. The only exception to this is patients with phenylketonuria, a genetic inability to process phenylalanine, an ingredient of aspartame.
Speaking about the public consultation, EFSA stated: “We have learned a lot from this consultation and the opportunity provided by this meeting to better understand the comments submitted. We have seen for instance that we need to better explain why we include or exclude certain studies from our risk assessment as well as the uncertainties and limitations of some of the studies available.
“We will consider all the points raised today very carefully in the finalisation of our opinion.”