European Food Safety Authority Reconfirms Safety of Low-Calorie Sweeteners

In February 2011, following a comprehensive review of two recent studies questioning the safety of low-calorie sweeteners, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded that these new studies do not give reason to reconsider the previous safety evaluations of aspartame or other low-calorie sweeteners (intense sweeteners) authorized in the European Union. As is the normal practice, EFSA will continue to monitor related scientific developments in this area.

In its Feb. 28 statement, EFSA noted numerous methodological flaws and/or questions concerning the two studies, stating that in neither case can any scientific conclusions be drawn. In recent years, EFSA has conducted similar reviews of research and come to the same conclusion every time: low-calorie sweeteners are safe. In 2009, for example, EFSA’s Scientific Panel on Food Additives, Flavourings, Processing Aids and Materials in Contact with Food (AFC) stated: “Overall, the Panel concluded on the basis of all the evidence currently available including the last published ERF [European Ramazzini Foundation] study that there is no indication of any genotoxic or carcinogenic potential of aspartame and that there is no reason to revise the previously established ADI for aspartame of 40 mg/kg bw/day.”

The recent study allegations – which involve a carcinogenicity study involving aspartame and mice and an epidemiological study claiming a link between consumption of diet soft drinks and preterm delivery – are at complete odds with the wealth of scientific literature demonstrating that low-calorie sweeteners are safe and do not cause adverse health effects. For example, an epidemiology study from the National Cancer Institute confirmed previous study conclusions that there is no link between aspartame consumption and leukemias, lymphomas and brain tumors. The study evaluated more than 500,000 men and women between the ages of 50 and 69 over a five-year period.  A comprehensive review of more than 500 studies and recently published in Critical Reviews in Toxicology also found that aspartame is safe and not associated with cancer.  The review was conducted by a panel of eight leading experts in the areas of toxicology, epidemiology, metabolism, pathology, and biostatistics.

EFSA will continue to monitor related scientific developments related to the safety of aspartame and other low-calorie sweeteners.

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Items of Interest

March 10, 2011 Research Summaries