Despite warnings, aspartame remains an authorized additive in the UK

2 Dec 2020

When the UK exits the European Union come the new year, there will not be any change to the list of authorized food additives. This post-transition list will continue to permit aspartame as a food additive despite studies suggesting that its consumption may be harmful to the public in the long term.

Professor Erik Paul Millstone and Dr. Elisabeth Dawson of the Sussex Business School published a critique of this decision in the Archives of Public Health where they stated that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) failed to adequately assess the risk of aspartame consumption.

Despite warnings, aspartame remains an authorized additive in the UK

In the open letter, the scientists pointed to 35 studies that the EFSA accepted despite 21 of them indicated that consumption even at low or moderate levels could cause adverse health effects for consumers. Furthermore, the pair argued that the governmental authority deemed 73 studies suggesting harm from aspartame consumption to have been unreliable.

These incongruencies between the studies and the ruling that aspartame is safe for consumption caused the two experts to pose the question, “Why did the EFSA panel not recommend that aspartame should be banned, or at least tightly restricted?” in their open letter.

As the UK is currently in the process of leaving the EU, the pair called on the British government to raise the food standards in the newly separated territory and ban the additive.

Adverse health consequences have been linked to aspartame since the 1970s, and yet the sweetener remains the most widely used sugar substitute. While there are studies showing links to cancer and neurological disorders, Food Navigator reported that the International Sweeteners Association and the British Nutritional Foundation considered the sweeteners role in reducing the overall intake of calories for an individual as well as its inability to be fermented by oral bacteria and cause tooth decay as marks in favor of its widespread use.

Despite these critiques, the United Kingdom will continue to move forward with allowing the use of aspartame as an alternative sweetener following the guidance issued by the EFSA in 2013 that the additive is safe when consumed at quantities that are below 40 milligrams per kilogram of body weight.

Read the Letter Here

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