Aspartame: Safety and Approval

Aspartame is a low-calorie sweetener that has been safely used in a variety of foods and beverages for over 30 years. More than 200 scientific studies support the safety of aspartame.

Aspartame has been reviewed by regulatory agencies from around the world, including the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) of the World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). These agencies and organizations from over 100 countries agree that aspartame is safe for all populations, including pregnant women and children.

Aspartame has also been routinely found by FDA, JECFA, EFSA and others to be non-carcinogenic. Despite this overwhelming evidence and regulatory support, the state of California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) is considering aspartame and several other substances for possible prioritization and listing under Proposition 65. In November 2016, a group of scientists that advises OEHHA failed to reach consensus on whether or when to further review aspartame. During their meeting, there was testimony that the FDA reaffirmed the safety of aspartame in October 2014, which followed FDA’s original approval of aspartame in 1981. The Calorie Control Council is optimistic that if California reviews all of the relevant information in depth, it will reach a similar conclusion and find that there is no concern.

“Over 200 research studies demonstrate the safety of aspartame and among them, none found aspartame damages genes, causes cancer, harms the brain or affects behavior or cognitive function in humans,” said Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, scientific advisor to the Calorie Control Council. “I find it very reassuring that so many experts affirm the safety of aspartame.”

In addition, consumers, health professionals and regulatory authorities can take comfort in the safety of aspartame due to the fact that it is made of components already found in many foods and beverages people consume every day. Aspartame is completely broken down by the body into its components – the amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine – and a small amount of methanol. These components are found in much greater amounts in common foods, such as meat, milk, fruits, and vegetables, and are used by the body in the same way, whether they come from aspartame or common foods and drinks.

Aspartame is a widely used low-calorie sweetener. This wide use has motivated OEHHA to consider reviewing aspartame in the future. Proposition 65 was enacted to help protect the state’s drinking water sources from being contaminated and requires maintenance of a list of substances known to the state to “cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.” However, it is important to remember that aspartame has not been determined by any regulatory, state or medical group to cause cancer. In fact, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), studies of FDA-approved sweeteners (of which aspartame is one) have not shown a link with cancer in people. Recently, “The NCI examined human data from the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study of over half a million retirees. Increasing consumption of aspartame-containing beverages was not associated with the development of lymphoma, leukemia, or brain cancer.” In fact, OEHHA evaluated aspartame less than 10 years ago and determined that it should not be listed under Proposition 65.

Items of Interest

March 15, 2017 Statements