Kartika Liotard: Safety of aspartame not established by EU food watchdog evaluation

8 May 2006

Kartika Liotard: Safety of aspartame not established by EU food watchdog evaluation

The conclusions drawn by the EU's food safety watchdog, the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA), regarding the sweetener aspartame (Nutrasweet) are far from reassuring. They are in places completely at odds with the findings of the Ramazzini Institute, which conducted the actual research into the possible carcinogenic properties exhibited by the substance. Reacting to EFSA's statement, SP Euro-MP Kartika Liotard, a member of the European Parliament's Public Health Committee, said, “When it comes to food it's always the case that any doubts must be dispelled, not played down and wished away as EFSA seems to have done. The safety of aspartame is still not guaranteed.”

EFSA evaluated last year's research from the Ramazzini Institute, but its conclusions are at odds with those of the Institute itself. Ramazzini found that there was indeed a relationship between aspartame and various sorts of cancer, and now EFSA says that this isn't so. “The press conference where EFSA presented these conclusions seemed designed to play down the importance of the Ramazzini research,” Kartika Liotard commented.

EFSA's attitude to further research, it's view that "the book on aspartame can now be closed definitively" is also disturbing, she said. “It's bizarre. Given the large amount of evidence regarding the carcinogenic properties of aspartame and the differences of opinion between scientists, surely further research is more than ever needed. In any event there should be a long-term study of the effects of aspartame on people. For the time being we should be applying the precautionary principle. That should also mean that people are warned about the possible health dangers, including through labels on aspartame and products containing it.” The very opposite of this is occurring, however. In doctors' waiting rooms you can often find a leaflet with the title 'Aspartame, carefree and sweet'. These are sponsored by Coca Cola, which uses aspartame in its 'light' products.”

Kartika LiotardAs Liotard concludes: “At EFSA's press conference an inordinate amount of time was spent on the question of the independence and impartiality of the scientists they employed. That rather raises your curiosity. We would like to know more about the background of these EFSA researchers, especially in the light of the doubts recently expressed by the European Commission itself over the quality of EFSA's work. Such doubts have been further fuelled by this event and we need to take a critical look at the agency.”

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