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Friday, 30 September 2005 10:08
BNN: British Nursing News Online · www.bnn-online.co.uk
Sweetener linked to cancer
An artificial sweetener used in more than 6,000 food and drink products is at the centre of a storm of controversy after an Italian research centre found that it causes cancer of the kidney and the peripheral nerves (mainly in the head).

Scientists from the European Ramazzini Foundation for cancer research in Bologna had conducted a large-scale study into the effect of aspartame on 1,800 rats. Previous studies have linked the sweetener to an increased risk of leukaemias and lymphomas in lab rats “at doses very close to the acceptable daily intake for humans”.

But manufacturers of aspartame have questioned the validity of the study and attacked the research as “in total conflict with hundreds of credible studies that have been thoroughly reviewed around the world”.

The sweetener is estimated to account for 62 per cent of the world market in sweetening agents and is commonly found in diet colas and low-calorie drinks, juices, sweets, chewing gum, cereals, yoghurts, desserts, crisps, medicines and vitamin supplements.

The European Food Safety Authority said it would review the research “as a matter of high priority” but added that, at present, it is not recommending that consumers avoid products containing aspartame.

The International Sweeteners Association said last week: "Aspartame is one of the most tested food ingredients ever and all evaluations undertaken by independent risk assessors at international, European, and national level have concluded that aspartame is a safe foodstuff ... Aspartame can make a useful contribution to weight control. With billions of man-years of safe use, there is no indication of an association between aspartame and cancer in humans."

One of the largest manufacturers of aspartame, the Japanese company Ajinomoto, said in a statement: "Aspartame has a record of 25 years of safe use. Aspartame is made from amino acids and is broken down into common dietary components. Aspartame itself therefore brings nothing new to the diet. Raising ill-founded fears about an ingredient which helps people to control calorie intake is not benign."


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