No concerns about safety of aspartame

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ISA statement in response to new commentary by Landrigan and Straif

Brussels, 14th April 2021: The International Sweeteners Association (ISA) highlights the safety of aspartame for use in foods and beverages, as confirmed by food safety authorities around the world, in line with the overwhelming body of scientific evidence available,1,2,3 and contrary to conclusions in a recent commentary published by Landrigan and Straif on use of aspartame in rodents.4

Prior to being approved for use on the market, aspartame has undergone a stringent safety assessment, as all low/no calorie sweeteners. In the most comprehensive safety assessment of aspartame published in 2013, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reconfirmed that aspartame is not a safety concern.1 In order to prepare this scientific opinion, EFSA and its leading scientists evaluated the totality of the available scientific evidence, including data relating to potential toxicity and carcinogenicity, and concluded that “there is no evidence to suggest that aspartame induces cancer according to existing large human population studies”.5

Importantly, the commentary by Landrigan and Straif does not add any new evidence but presents results of previously published studies in rats, already dismissed by EFSA in its scientific assessment.1 In fact, since the original publication of the previous studies in rats6,7 no other findings have ever reproduced or confirmed such observations.

At a time when obesity and non-communicable diseases including diabetes and dental diseases remain major global health challenges, and in light of current public health recommendations to reduce overall sugar intake, low/no calorie sweeteners, such as aspartame, can be helpful in creating healthier food environments. They provide a wide choice of sweet-tasting options with low or no calories, and thus can be a useful tool, when used in place of sugar and as part of a balanced diet, in helping reduce overall sugar and calorie intake, as well as in managing blood glucose level.8 Low/no calorie sweeteners are also not fermentable by oral bacteria, which means that they do not contribute to tooth demineralisation, which is one of the reasons for tooth decay.8

  1. European Food Safety Authority. Scientific Opinion on the re-evaluation of aspartame (E 951) as a food additive. EFSA J. 2013;11:3496. doi:10.2903/ j.efsa.2013.3496.
  2. https://apps.who.int/food-additives-contaminants-jecfa-database/chemical.aspx?chemID=62
  3. https://www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-petitions/additional-information-about-high-intensity-sweeteners-permitted-use-food-united-states
  4. Landrigan, P.J., Straif, K. Aspartame and cancer – new evidence for causation. Environ Health 20, 42 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12940-021-00725-y
  5. https://www.efsa.europa.eu/sites/default/files/corporate_publications/files/factsheetaspartame.pdf
  6. Soffritti M. et al. First experimental demonstration of the multipotential carcinogenic effects of aspartame administered in the feed to Sprague-Dawley rats. Environ Health Perspect. 2006;14(3):379–85. https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp.8711
  7. Soffritti M et al. Life-span exposure to low doses of aspartame beginning during prenatal life increases Cancer effects in rats. Environ Health Perspect. 2007;115(9):1293–7. https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp.10271
  8. EFSA Scientific opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to intense sweeteners. EFSA 2011 Journal 9(6): 2229, and 9(4): 2076 and Commission Regulation 432/2012/EU (OJ L 136 25.5.2012, p. 1): http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2012:136:0001:0040:en:PDF