Following a full risk assessment of the artificial sweetener aspartame, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has concluded that the current Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of 40mg/kg bw/day is safe for consumption for the general population.
The re-evaluation of aspartame is part a programme set up by the Commission Regulation (EU) which involves comprehensive re-evaluations of all food additives approved prior to 2009.
In May 2011, EFSA was asked by the European Commission to bring forward the full re-evaluation of the safety of aspartame (E 951), which was previously planned for completion by 2020, due to concerns raised regarding recent studies.
The comprehensive assessment included a rigorous review of all available scientific research on aspartame and its breakdown products, including both animal and human studies.
EFSA stated that they examined all uncertainties related to the evaluation of aspartame to ensure that potential risks associated with aspartame were not underestimated.
The assessment concluded that aspartame does not harm the brain, the nervous system or affect behaviour or cognitive function in children or adults, nor does it pose risks during pregnancy. Researchers also ruled out a potential risk of aspartame causing damage to genes and inducing cancer.
The only exception that the researchers mentioned was in relation to patients suffering from the medical condition phenylketonuria (PKU), where the ADI is not applicable as sufferers require strict adherence to a diet low in phenylalanine.
Chair of EFSA’s Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources Added to Foods (ANS Panel), Dr Alicja Mortensen said that the assessment marks one of the most comprehensive reports of the sweetener.
“This opinion represents one of the most comprehensive risk assessments of aspartame ever undertaken. It’s a step forward in strengthening consumer confidence in the scientific underpinning of the EU food safety system and the regulation of food additives”, said Mortensen.