The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) announced on Dec. 10 that it had completed a full risk assessment on aspartame, a controversial artificial sweetener. The EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources Added to Food found that:
Overall, the Panel concluded from the present assessment of aspartame that there were no safety concerns at the current ADI of 40 mg/kg bw/day. Therefore, there was no reason to revise the ADI for aspartame.
Since it was introduced in 1965, aspartame has been the subject of over 200 scientific studies. Persistent claims that the sweetener can cause illness, cancer, autism or birth defects have continued despite the evidence. In 2007, a paper examined the scientific literature on the relationship between aspartame and cancer. The authors found "provide no evidence to support an association between aspartame and cancer in any tissue."
Aspartame is described by the American Cancer Society:
Aspartame is one of the most common artificial sweeteners in use today. It is sold under the brand names NutraSweet® and Equal®. Aspartame is composed mainly of 2 amino acids, aspartic acid and phenylalanine. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and are found naturally in many foods.
The Society agrees that, based on current use, there is no evidence of a relationship between the sweetener and cancer.
Aspartame does pose a risk to individuals with a rare inherited condition called phenylketonuria (PKU). Patients with this condition cannot metabolize the amino acid phenylalanine. The build up of that amino acid in the body can cause harm to the central nervous system and brain damage. The amino acid is found in foods such as milk and eggs, and is one of the two amino acids in aspartame. Products containing aspartame are required to have a warning on the label for persons with PKU.