What do sick mice, bio-weaponry, Rumsfeld and soft drinks have in common?
Aspartame was listed by the Pentagon as a biochemical warfare agent, so why is it now used in so many food and drink products?
How did it become an integral part of our modern diet? It is now found in 1000’s of foods and drinks, flavoured waters, chewing gum, crisps, diet foods and drinks, diabetic foods, breakfast cereals, jams, sweets, vitamins, prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and so on and on.
Aspartame is sold commercially under names like – Advantame, Acesulfame Potassium, AminoSweet, APM, Aspartyl phenylalanine methyl ester, Benevia, Canderel, Equal, E951, NatraTaste, NutraSweet, TwinSweet, Spoonful, Sugar Twin, Sweet One, Smart Sweet, Twin Sweet, and many others.
Because aspartame contains no calories and was deemed safe by the FDA, it was embraced by health-conscious individuals everywhere. But independent genuine scientists have always said, aspartame can produce a wide range of disturbing adverse effects in humans, including headaches, memory loss, mood swings, seizures, Multiple Sclerosis-like symptoms, Parkinson’s-like symptoms, tumours and even death.
Concerns over aspartame’s toxicity meant that for eight years, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) denied its approval, effectively keeping it off the world market. It was the first time in the FDA’s history that it requested a criminal investigation into the manufacturer. This caution was based on compelling evidence, brought to light by numerous eminent scientists, litigators and consumer groups, that aspartame contributed to serious central nervous system damage and cancer in animals.
Eventually, however, political muscle won out over scientific rigour, thanks to Donald Rumsfeld, and aspartame was approved for use in 1981 (see timeline below for details).
The FDA’s about-turn opened the floodgates for aspartame’s swift approval by more than 70 regulatory authorities around the world. But, as the remarkable history of the sweetener shows, the clean bill of health given to it by government regulators was simply not worth the paper it was written on.
Aspartame’s Toxic Contents
Each of aspartame’s main constituents is a known neurotoxin capable of producing a unique array of adverse effects.
Aspartame is made up of three chemicals: the amino acids: aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol. The chemical bond that holds these constituents together is fairly weak and as a result, aspartame readily breaks down into its component parts in a variety of circumstances: in liquids; during prolonged storage; or when exposed to heat (86°F / 30°C (normal body temperature is 97.7°F / 36.5°C).
These constituents then further break down into other toxic by-products, namely formaldehyde, formic acid and aspartylphenylalanine diketopiperazine (DKP).
The manufacturers of aspartame argue that its constituents are all found naturally in food, however, they ignore the fact that in food, amino acids like aspartic acid and phenylalanine are bound to proteins, which means that during digestion and metabolism, they are released slowly into the body. In aspartame, these amino acids are in an unbound or ‘free’ form that releases greater amounts of these chemicals into the system much more quickly. Similarly, the methanol present in natural foods like fruits, for example, is bound to pectin and also has a co-factor, ethanol, to mediate some of its effects. No such chemical “back-stops” exist in aspartame.
Neuroscientist, Russell Blaylock, says the effect of aspartame’s breakdown components on brain function is central to its known adverse effects. He wrote a book about excitotoxins called: ‘Excitotoxins:The Taste That Kills”. He says:
“Even a minute over-concentration of these chemicals causes the brain cells to become so overexcited that they very quickly burn themselves out and die.”
The essential amino acid phenylalanine comprises 50% of aspartame. In people with the genetic disorder Phenylketonuria (PKU) the liver cannot metabolise phenylalanine, causing it to build up in the blood and tissues. Chronically high levels of phenylalanine and some of its breakdown products can cause significant neurological problems, which is why foods and beverages containing aspartame must carry a warning for PKU sufferers.
But according to Dr H J Roberts, sensitivity to aspartame is not limited to PKU sufferers. There is evidence that ingesting aspartame, especially along with carbohydrates, can lead to excess levels of phenylalanine in the brain, even among those not affected by PKU.
Although phenylalanine is sometimes used as a treatment for depression, excessive amounts in the brain can cause levels of the mood regulator, serotonin, to decrease, making depression more serious or likely. A decrease in serotonin levels can result in carbohydrate craving, and a build-up of phenylalanine in the brain can also worsen schizophrenia and make individuals more susceptible to seizures.
DKP is a breakdown product of phenylalanine that forms when aspartame-containing liquids are stored for prolonged periods. In animal experiments, it has produced brain tumours, uterine polyps and changes in blood cholesterol. Before the FDA approved aspartame, the amount of DKP in our diets was essentially zero.
Aspartic acid (also known as aspartate) is a non-essential amino acid that comprises 40% of aspartame. In the brain, it functions as a neurotransmitter – facilitating the transfer of information from one nerve cell (neuron) to another. But too much aspartate in the brain produces free-radicals (unstable molecules) that damage and kill brain cells.
Humans are five times more sensitive to the effects of aspartic acid than rodents, and 20 times more sensitive than monkeys, because we concentrate these excitatory amino acids in our blood at much higher levels and for a longer period of time.
Aspartic acid has a cumulative harmful effect on the endocrine and reproductive systems. Several animal experiments have shown that excitotoxins can penetrate the placental barrier and reach the foetus.
In addition, as levels of aspartic acid rise in the body so do levels of the key neurotransmitter norepinephrine (also known as noradrenaline), a ‘stress hormone’ that affects parts of the human brain where attention and impulsivity are controlled. Excessive norepinephrine is associated with symptoms such as anxiety, agitation and mania.
Methanol (wood alcohol) comprises 10 per cent of aspartame. It is a deadly poison that is liberated from aspartame at temperatures in excess of 86°F / 30°C (normal body temperature is 97.7°F / 36.5°C).
The US Environmental Protection Agency considers methanol to be a “cumulative poison”.
The most well known problems from methanol poisoning are vision disorders, including misty or blurry vision, retinal damage and blindness. Other symptoms include headaches, tinnitus, dizziness, nausea, gastrointestinal disturbances, weakness, vertigo, chills,, memory lapses, numbness and shooting pains in the extremities, behavioural disturbances, and neuritis.
The EPA tightly controls methanol exposure, however, as Blaylock says: “The level allowed in NutraSweet is seven times the amount the EPA will allow anyone else to use.”
The methanol absorbed from aspartame is converted to formaldehyde in the liver. Formaldehyde is a known neurotoxin and known carcinogen. It causes retinal damage and birth defects, interferes with DNA replication, and has been shown to cause squamous-cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer, in animals.
Several human studies have found that chronic, low-level formaldehyde exposure has been linked with a variety of symptoms, including headaches, fatigue, chest tightness, dizziness, nausea, poor concentration and seizures.
Formic acid is another “cumulative poison” produced by the breakdown of formaldehyde. It concentrates in the brain, kidneys, spinal fluid and other organs, and is highly toxic to cells. Formic acid can lead to accumulation of excessive acid in the body fluids – a condition known as acidosis.
The History of Aspartame
While working on an ulcer drug, a chemist at a pharmaceutical manufacturer, GD Searle, accidentally discovers aspartame, a substance that is 180 times sweeter than sugar, with no calories.
GD Searle approaches eminent biochemist Dr Harry Waisman, Director of the University of Wisconsin’s Joseph P Kennedy Jr Memorial Laboratory of Mental Retardation Research and a respected expert in the toxicity of phenylalanine (which comprises 50 per cent of the aspartame formula), to conduct a study of the effects of aspartame on primates:
Seven monkeys were fed aspartame mixed with milk: one dies and the other five have grand mal epileptic seizures.
Searle begins safety tests, necessary for FDA approval.
Dr John Olney, Professor of Neuropathology and Psychiatry at Washington University in St Louis School of Medicine, whose research into the neurotoxic food additive monosodium glutamate (MSG, a chemical cousin of aspartame) was responsible for having it removed from baby foods, informs Searle that his studies show that aspartic acid, one of the main constituents of aspartame, causes holes in the brains of infant mice. One of Searle’s researchers, Ann Reynolds, confirms Olney’s findings in a similar study.
Searle applies for FDA approval and submits over 100 studies, claiming support for aspartame’s safety. Neither the dead monkeys nor the mice with holes in their brains are included in the submission.
Before aspartame can reach the marketplace, Dr John Olney, James Turner’ attorney, consumer advocate and former ‘Nader’s Raider’ who was instrumental in removing the artificial sweetener cyclamate from the US market, and the group Label Inc – Legal Action for Buyers’ Education and Labeling, files a formal objection to aspartame’s approval with the FDA, citing evidence that it could cause brain damage particularly in children.
In a memorandum, Dr Martha M Freeman of the FDA Division of Metabolic and Endocrine Drug Products criticises the inadequacy of the information submitted by Searle with particular regard to one of the compound’s toxic breakdown products, diketopiperazine (DKP). She recommends that marketing of aspartame be contingent upon the sweetener’s proven clinical safety.
FDA commissioner Dr Alexander Schmidt grants aspartame its first approval as a ‘food additive’ for restricted use in dry foods. This approval comes despite the fact that his own scientists found serious deficiencies in the data submitted by Searle.
Concerns about the accuracy of test data submitted to the FDA by Searle for a wide range of products, prompts Schmidt to appoint a special task force to examine irregularities in 25 key studies for aspartame and Searle drugs, Flagyl, Aldactone and Norpace.
Searle agrees to an inquiry into aspartame safety concerns. Searle withdraws aspartame from the market pending its results.
While the grand jury investigation is underway, Sidley & Austin, the law firm representing Searle, begins recruitment negotiations with Samuel Skinner, the US attorney in charge of the investigation. Skinner removes himself from the investigation and the case is passed to William Conlon.
The Bressler Report is released and it focuses on three key aspartame studies conducted by Searle.
The report finds that in one study 98 of the 196 animals died, but weren’t autopsied until later dates, making it impossible to ascertain the actual cause of death. Tumours were removed from live animals and the animals placed back in the study. Many other errors and inconsistencies are noted. For example, a rat was reported alive, then dead, then alive, then dead again.
The final report notes:
“Faulty and fraudulent product testing; knowingly misrepresented product testing; knowingly misrepresented and ‘manipulated’ test data; and instances of irrelevant animal research in all the products reviewed. Schmidt says: ‘Searle’s studies were incredibly sloppy science. What we discovered was reprehensible.”
FDA chief counsel Richard Merrill formally requests the US Attorney’s office to begin grand jury proceedings to investigate whether indictments should be filed against Searle for knowingly misrepresenting findings and “concealing material facts and making false statements” in aspartame safety tests.
This is the first time in the FDA’s history that it requests a criminal investigation into a manufacturer.
Samuel Skinner leaves the US Attorney’s office and takes a job with Searle’s law firm, and Conlon takes over Skinner’s old job.
Searle hires prominent Washington insider Donald Rumsfeld as its new CEO to try to turn the beleaguered company around. Donald Rumsfeld, Defence Secretary in the Ford administration, brings several of his Washington colleagues in as top management.
Donald Rumsfeld vows to ‘call in his markers’ and use political, rather than scientific, means to get the FDA on side in spite of the uncertainties over aspartame’s safety in the US.
The FDA then publishes a report exonerating Searle of any wrong doing in its testing procedures.
The journal ‘Medical World News’ reports that
“the methanol content of aspartame is 1,000 times greater than most foods under FDA control. In high concentrations methanol, or wood alcohol, is a lethal poison.”
Aspartame then becomes available, primarily in pharmaceutical products in France and sold under the brand name ‘Canderel’ and manufactured by the food corporation Merisant.
Despite complaints from the Justice Department, Conlon stalls the grand jury prosecution for so long that the statute of limitations on the aspartame charges runs out and the investigation is dropped.
Just over a year later Conlon joins Searle’s law firm, Sidley & Austin.
The FDA’s PBOI votes unanimously against aspartame’s approval, pending further investigations of brain tumours in animals. The board says it “has not been presented with proof of reasonable certainty that aspartame is safe for use as a food additive.”
Jacqueline Verrett will later testify to the US Senate that her team was pressured into validating data from experiments that were “clearly a disaster”.
The FDA finally establishes a public board of inquiry (PBOI), comprising three scientists whose job it is to review the objections of Olney and Turner to the approval of aspartame and rule on safety issues surrounding the sweetener.
Ronald Reagan is sworn in as President of the US on the 20th January 1981. Reagan’s transition team, includes Rumsfeld, the CEO at Searle, and he nominates Dr Arthur Hull Hayes Jr to be the new FDA Commissioner and Director, a pharmacologist, with no previous experience in food.
On January 21st 1981, the day after Ronald Reagan’s inauguration, Reagan issues an executive order, eliminating the FDA commissioners’ authority to take action. Searle then re-applies to the FDA for approval to use aspartame as a food sweetener.
Hayes, the new FDA Director, appoints a 5 person Scientific Commission to review the board of inquiry’s decision but it soon becomes clear that the panel is going to uphold the ban by a 3-2 majority, so Hayes installs a sixth member on the commission. The vote is then dead-locked, so he then personally breaks the tie by voting, himself, in favour of aspartame, that it is safe.
Hayes approves aspartame in dry goods on July 18th 1981.
Hayes leaves his post at the FDA in November, amid accusations that he accepted corporate gifts for political favors. But just before leaving office, he approves the use of aspartame in beverages.
After Hayes leaves the FDA under allegations of impropriety, he serves briefly as Provost at New York Medical College and then takes a position as a highly paid senior medical advisor with Burson-Marsteller, the chief public relations firm for both Monsanto and G D Searle.
The FDA then goes on to approve aspartame as a tabletop sweetener, for use in tablets, breakfast cereals, chewing gum, dry bases for beverages, instant coffee, tea, gelatines, puddings, fillings, dairy -product toppings. flavour enhancer for chewing gum. Aspartame is approved for use in carbonated beverages and syrup bases in the US and soon after, in Britain. Canderel tablets are launched in the UK followed by Granular Canderel. The aspartame-based sweetener Equal, manufactured by Merisant, is launched in the US.
Searle’s attorney, Robert Shapiro, gives aspartame its commercial name, NutraSweet, and the name is trademarked the following year. Shapiro later becomes President of Searle and eventually becomes President, then Chairman and CEO of Monsanto.
Monsanto purchases Searle for $2.7 billion and Donald Rumsfeld reportedly receives a $12 million bonus.
The CDC review of public complaints relating to aspartame culminates in a report, Evaluation of Consumer Complaints Related to Aspartame Use, which reviews 213 of 592 cases and notes that re-challenge tests show that sensitive individuals consistently produce the same adverse symptoms each time they ingest aspartame. The reported symptoms include: aggressive behaviour, disorientation, hyperactivity, extreme numbness, excitability, memory loss, loss of depth perception, headaches, change of vision, sleep problems, severe mood swings, convulsions and seizures, hallucination, liver impairment, cardiac arrest, memory loss, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, poor equilibrium, hives, change in heart rate, abdominal cramps, pain, rash, fatigue, weakness, diarrhea, joint pain.
The CDC nevertheless concludes that aspartame is safe to ingest.
On the same day that the CDC exonerates aspartame, Pepsi announces that it is dropping saccharin and adopting aspartame as the sweetener in all its diet drinks. Others quickly follow suit.
The FDA then approves aspartame for use in multivitamins.
A study by the state of Arizona Department of Health into aspartame is published in the Journal of Applied Nutrition, determines that soft drinks stored at elevated temperatures promote more rapid deterioration of aspartame into poisonous methanol.
The FDA denies Turner and Monte’s requests for a hearing, noting that aspartame’s critics had not presented any unresolved safety questions.
Regarding aspartame’s breakdown components, the FDA says that it has reviewed animal, clinical and consumption studies submitted by the sweetener’s manufacturer, as well as the existing body of scientific data, and concludes that ‘the studies demonstrated the safety of these components’.
UPI reports that 10 federal officials involved in approving aspartame have taken private sector jobs linked to the product’s manufacture.
Turner files another citizen’s petition, this time concerning the risk of seizures and eye damage from aspartame. The petition argues that medical records of 140 aspartame users show them to have suffered from epileptic seizures and eye damage after consuming products containing the sweetener and that the FDA should ban aspartame as an ‘imminent hazard to the public health’.
The FDA approves aspartame for non-carbonated frozen or refrigerated concentrates and single-strength fruit juice, fruit drinks, fruit-flavoured drinks, imitation fruit-flavoured drinks, frozen stock-type confections and novelties, breath mints and tea beverages.
An FDA report on adverse reactions associated with aspartame states the majority of the complaints about aspartame, now numbering 3,133, refer to neurological effects.
The US Supreme Court, headed by Justice Clarence Thomas, a former Monsanto attorney, refuses to consider arguments from the Community Nutrition Institute and other consumer groups that the FDA has not followed proper procedures in approving aspartame, and that the liquid form of the artificial sweetener may cause brain damage in heavy users of low-calorie soft drinks.
The FDA declares aspartame safe for use as an inactive ingredient, provided labelling meets certain specifications.
Nutra Sweet’s aspartame patent runs out in Europe, Canada and Japan. More companies are now free to produce aspartame sweeteners in these countries.
United Press International, a leading global news -syndication organisation, reports that more than 1 federal official, involved in the decision to approve aspartame, have now taken jobs in the private sector linked to the aspartame industry.
The FDA denies Turner’s new petition, saying:
‘The data and information supporting the safety of aspartame are extensive. It is likely that no food product has ever been so closely examined for safety. Moreover, the decisions of the agency to approve aspartame for its uses have been given the fullest airing that the legal process requires.”
A US Senate hearing is held to address the issue of aspartame safety and labelling. The hearing reviews the faulty testing procedures and the ‘psychological strategy’ used by Searle to help ensure aspartame’s approval. Other information comes to light includes the fact that aspartame was once on a Pentagon list of prospective biochemical-warfare weapons.
Numerous medical and scientific experts testify as to the toxicity of aspartame. Among them is Verrett, who reveals that, while compiling its 1977 report, her team was instructed not to comment on or be concerned with the overall validity of the studies. She states that questions about birth defects have not been answered. She also states that increasing the temperature of the product leads to an increase in production of DKP, a substance shown to increase uterine polyps and change blood cholesterol levels.
Verrett comments: ‘It was pretty obvious that somewhere along the line, the bureau officials were working up to a whitewash.’
The FDA has received more than 4,000 complaints from consumers about adverse reactions to the sweetener.
The Guardian (UK) publishes a major investigation of aspartame and delivers to government officials ‘a dossier of evidence’ that draws heavily on the transcripts of the Bressler Report and demands that the UK Government review the safety of aspartame. No review is undertaken. The Guardian is taken to court by Monsanto and forced to apologise for printing its story..
Britain’s National Institutes of Health publishes ‘Adverse Effects of Aspartame’ in January ’86 through December ’90, a bibliography of 167 studies documenting adverse effects associated with aspartame.
NutraSweet signs agreements with Coca-Cola and Pepsi stipulating that it is their preferred supplier of aspartame.
The FDA approves aspartame for use in malt beverages, breakfast cereals, and refrigerated puddings and fillings and in bulk form (in large packages like sugar) for tabletop use. NutraSweet markets these bulk products under the name ‘NutraSweet’ and ‘Spoonful’.
NutraSweet’s US patent for aspartame expires, opening up the market for other companies to produce the substance.
The FDA approves aspartame for use in hard and soft candies, non-alcoholic flavoured beverages, tea beverages, fruit juices and concentrates, baked goods and baking mixes, and frostings, toppings and fillings for baked goods.
Aspartame now accounts for the majority (75%) of all the complaints in the US adverse-reaction monitoring system. The US Department of Health and Human Services compiles a report that brings together all current information on adverse reactions attributed to aspartame. It lists 6,888 complaints, including 649 reported by the CDC and 1,305 reported by the FDA.
John Olney shows that brain-tumour rates have risen in line with aspartame consumption and that there has been a significant increase in the conversion of less deadly brain tumours to much more deadly ones
Consumer activist, and founder of anti-aspartame group ‘Mission Possible’, Betty Martini uses the US’s Freedom of Information Act to force the FDA to release an official list of adverse effects associated with aspartame ingestion.
Culled from 10,000 consumer complaints, the list includes four deaths and more than 90 unique symptoms, a majority of which are connected to impaired neurological function. They include: headache; dizziness or problems with balance; mood change; vomiting and nausea; seizures and convulsions; memory loss; tremors; muscle weakness; abdominal pains and cramps; change in vision; diarrhea; fatigue and weakness; skin rashes; deteriorating vision; joint and musculoskeletal pain.
Drawing on data compiled by the US National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results programme, which collects and distributes data on all types of cancer, Olney publishes peer-reviewed research in the ‘Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology’, showing that brain-tumour rates have risen in line with aspartame consumption and that there has been a significant increase in the conversion of less deadly tumours into much more deadly ones. By the FDA’s own admission, fewer than 1 per cent of those who have problems with something they consume, ever report it to the FDA.
The FDA announces it has no further plans to continue collecting adverse reaction reports or monitoring research on aspartame.
The FDA removes all restrictions from aspartame use and approves it as a ‘general-purpose sweetener’, meaning that aspartame can now be used in any food or beverage.
DECEMBER 1996 – The results of a remarkable study conducted by Dr Ralph G Walton, professor of clinical psychology at North Eastern Ohio Universities, are revealed. Commissioned by the hard-hitting US national news programme 60 Minutes, it sheds some light on the absurdity of aspartame-safety studies.
Walton reviewed 165 separate studies published in the preceding 20 years in peer-reviewed medical journals: Seventy-four of the studies were industry-funded, all of which attested to aspartame’s safety. Of the other 91 non-industry funded studies, 84 identified adverse health effects. Six of the seven non-industry funded studies that were favourable to aspartame were from the FDA.
Monsanto petitions the FDA for approval of a new tabletop sweetener called ‘Neotame’ – around 60 times sweeter than aspartame and up to 13,000 times sweeter than sugar.
Neotame is less prone to breaking down in heat and in liquids than aspartame because of the addition of 3,3-dimethylbutyl, a poorly studied chemical with suspected neurotoxic effects. Strengthening the bond between aspartame’s main constituents eliminates the need for a health warning directed at people suffering from PKU.
The UK’s Food Commission publishes two surveys on sweeteners. The first shows that several leading companies, including St Wei, Mullerand Sainsbury’s, have ignored the legal requirement to state ‘with sweeteners‘ next to the name of the product. The second reveals that aspartame not only appears in ‘no-sugar added’ and ‘light’ beverages but also in ordinary non-dietetic drinks because it’s three times cheaper than ordinary sugar.
Independent scientists from the University of Barcelona publish a landmark study clearly showing that aspartame is transformed into formaldehyde in the bodies of living specimens (in this case rats), and that this formaldehyde spreads throughout the specimens’ vital organs, including the liver, kidneys, eyes and brain. The results fly in the face of manufacturers’ claims that aspartame does not break down into formaldehyde in the body, and bolster the claims of aspartame critics that many of the symptoms associated with aspartame toxicity are caused by the poisonous and cumulative effects of formaldehyde.
An investigation by ‘The lndependent on Sunday’ reveals that aspartame is made using a genetic engineering process. Aspartame component phenylalanine is naturally produced by bacteria. The newspaper reveals that Monsanto has genetically engineered the bacteria to make them produce more phenylalanine. Monsanto claims that the process had not been revealed previously because no modified DNA remains in the finished product, and insists that the product is completely safe.
Monsanto, under pressure from the worldwide resistance to genetically modified food and ongoing lawsuits – sells NutraSweet to JW ChiIds Associates, a private-equity firm in Boston comprised of several former Monsanto managers, for $440m. Monsanto also sells its equity interest in two European sweetener joint ventures, NutraSweet AG and Euro-Aspartame SA.
The FDA approves the tabletop and general use of Neotame.
The European Commission Scientific Committee on Food publishes its final report on aspartame and concludes, there is no evidence to suggest there is any need to revise the outcome of the earlier risk assessment previously established for aspartame.
As with the FDA, some of the committee members have links with the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), an industry group that funds, among other things, research into aspartame. ILSI members include Monsanto, Coca-Cola and Pepsi.
Members of the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Consumer Policy Committee approve the use of sucralose and an aspartame-acesulfame salt compound (manufactured in Europe by the aspartame-producing Holland Sweetener Company and sold under the name Twinsweet), agreeing to review of the use of both in three years’ time.
At the same time, a request by European Greens, that the committee re-evaluate the safety of aspartame and improve the labelling of aspartame-containing products, is rejected.
The feature-length documentary ‘Sweet Misery’ is released on DVD (sound and fury productions). Part-documentary, part-detective story. It includes interviews with people who have been harmed by aspartame, as well as credible testimony from advocates, doctors, lawyers and long-time campaigners, including James Turner, Hi Roberts and renowned neurosurgeon Dr Russell Blaylock.
US consumer group the National Justice League files a $350m class action lawsuit against the NutraSweet Corporation (the current owner of aspartame products), the American Diabetes Association and Monsanto. Some 50 other defendants have yet to be named, but mentioned throughout the lawsuit is Donald Rumsfeld, who helped to get aspartame approved through the FDA. The plaintiffs maintain that this litigation will prove how deadly aspartame is when it is consumed by humans. Little progress is made so far in bringing the action to court.
The Ramizzini Institute in Bologna, a non-profit, private institution set up to research the causes of cancer, releases the results of a very large, long-term animal study into aspartame ingestion. Its study shows that aspartame causes lymphomas and leukaemia in female animals fed aspartame at doses around 20 mg per kilo of body weight, or around half the accepted daily intake for humans.
The NutraSweet Company reopens its plant in Atlanta, Georgia, (dormant since 2003) to meet increased demand.
Aspartame, sold commercially as NutraSweet, Equal, Equal-Measure, Spoonful, Canderel and Benevia, is available in more than 100 countries and used in more than 5,000 products by at least 250 million people every day. Worldwide, the aspartame industry’s sales amount to more than $1 billion yearly. The US, the primary consumer, of aspartame, shows a significant spike in blood-plasma levels of aspartate.
In December 2013 the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published its first full risk assessment of aspartame. The opinion concludes that aspartame and its breakdown products are safe for general population (including infants, children and pregnant women).
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