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Aspartame safe at current levels, concludes EFSA, again

The opinion, which EFSA said followed “one of the most comprehensive risk assessments of aspartame ever undertaken”, was published after a rigorous review of all available scientific research on the controversial sweetener. 

Following the analysis, experts said the current acceptable daily intake (ADI) of 40mg/kg body weight per day (bw/day) was safe for the general population. However, it pointed out that consumers suffering from the medical condition phenylketonuria (PKU) would have to follow a diet low in aspartame. 

“It’s a step forward in strengthening consumer confidence in the scientific underpinning of the EU food safety system and the regulation of food additives,” said Dr Alicja Mortensen, chair of EFSA’s panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources Added to Foods (ANS Panel).

Experts on the EFSA panel considered both animal and human studies prior to the publication of their opinion.

Aspartame did not increase the risk of cancer and did not damage genes, in the opinion of the panel, which also dismissed its potential harm of the brain, nervous system or cognitive functions in children and adults at recommended ADI levels. 

Risks to developing foetuses from exposure to phenylalanine, a component of aspartame, were also denied by the EFSA panel, so long as ADIs were followed and with the exception of pregnant women suffering from PKU. 

The panel also made clear that the breakdown products of aspartame, such as phenylalanine, methanol and aspartic acid, were naturally present in other foods. “The contribution of breakdown products of aspartame to the overall dietary exposure to these substances is low,” it said.

Barbara Gallani, director of regulation, science & health at the Food and Drink Federation, welcomed the outcome. “The final opinion issued today by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) once again confirms the safety of the low calorie sweetener aspartame,” she said.

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