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EFSA to Assess Risks of Aspartame for Human Health
Aspartame and its breakdown products are safe for human consumption at current levels of exposure. This is the conclusion the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published in its first full risk assessment of this sweetener (1).
What is Aspartame?
Aspartame is a low-calorie, intense artificial sweetener. It is a white, odorless powder, approximately 200 times sweeter than sugar. Aspartame is a dipeptide of L-phenylalanine methyl ester and L-aspartic acid bearing an amino group at the α-position from the carbon of the peptide bond (α-aspartame)
Aspartame as a Food Additive
Aspartame is authorized as a food additive in the European Union (EU). It was previously evaluated by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), the EU Scientific Committee for Food (SCF) and the EFSA. Both JECFA and SCF established an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of 40 mg/kg body weight (bw)/day. In Europe, aspartame is authorized to be used as a food additive in foodstuffs such as drinks, desserts, sweets, dairy products, chewing gums, energy-reducing and weight control products and as a table-top sweetener. In the European Union (EU) the label on foodstuffs containing aspartame must state its presence, indicating either its name or its E number (E 951).
Safety of Food Additives
The sweetener aspartame and its breakdown products have been a matter of extensive investigation for more than 30 years including experimental animal studies, clinical research, intake and epidemiological studies and post-marketing surveillance. It has been found to be safe and authorized for human consumption for many years and in many countries following thorough safety assessments. Since 2002, EFSA has kept the safety of aspartame under regular review and its Scientific Panels have issued several opinions on studies related to this sweetener. Currently, this work is carried out by the Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources Added to Food (ANS). Under the EU program for the re-evaluation by 2020 of all food additives authorized prior to 20 January 2009, EFSA was required to re-evaluate the safety of aspartame. This re-evaluation, originally scheduled to be finalized at the latest by 2020, was brought forward to 2013 following a request from the European Commission.
Experts of ANS Panel have considered all available information and, following a detailed analysis, have concluded that the current Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of 40mg/kg bw/day is protective for the general population. However, in patients suffering from the medical condition phenylketonuria (PKU), the ADI is not applicable, as they require strict adherence to a diet low in phenylalanine (an amino acid found in proteins).
(1) Scientific Opinion on the re-evaluation of aspartame (E 951) as a food additive (http://www.efsa.europa.eu/
(2)Food Additives (https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/
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