After extensive consultation and a full risk assessment of aspartame – an artificial sweetener used in food and drinks – the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concludes it is “safe for human consumption at current levels of exposure”, including for children and pregnant women.

Experts have considered “all available information and, following a detailed analysis, have concluded that the current Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of 40mg/kg bw/day is protective for the general population“.

Following a “thorough review of evidence provided both by animal and human studies, experts have ruled out a potential risk of aspartame causing damage to genes and inducing cancer. EFSA’s experts also concluded that “aspartame does not harm the brain, the nervous system or affect behaviour or cognitive function in children or adults“. With respect to pregnancy, the Panel noted that there was “ no risk to the developing fetus from exposure to phenylalanine derived from aspartame at the current ADI (with the exception of women suffering from Phenylketonuria (PKU) “.

Some controversies do remain, however. The experts’ opinion also applies to the breakdown products of aspartame (phenylalanine, methanol and aspartic acid). Methanol is a nerve toxin, which can be metabolised in the body to form formic acid, which is another nerve toxin, as well as formaldehyde.

A Danish EU funded project published in 2010 found pregnant women who drank cans of fizzy drink containing artificial sweeteners appear to be at greater risk of having a premature baby. Furthermore, the independent Ramazzini Foundation in Italy published research in 2006 suggesting aspartame caused several types of cancer in rats at doses very close to those currently recommended as the acceptable daily intake for humans.

EFSA Scientific Opinion on the re-evaluation of aspartame (E 951) as a food additive

– EFSA’s Press Release of 10 December 2013: EFSA completes full risk assessment on aspartame and concludes it is safe at current levels of exposure

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