Over 6000 common foods contain aspartame, a chemical produced via genetically engineered bacteria, which serves as an artificial food sweetener. The FDA and other food standards bodies are happy to tell consumers that foods containing the chemical labelled as E951, aspartame is safe. Yet the FDA continues to receive more complaints about aspartame than any other food additive.
Aspartame has many critics who label the man made chemical, which magnifies the sweetness of sugar 180 times, as toxic, and link it to many illnesses. Repeated unsatisfied safety concerns have lead to aspartame being the most tested food additive on the market. However the results are not exactly impartial as independent studies have found aspartame to be dangerous whilst industry backed studies declare it is safe.
It is hard for the consumer to draw a clear conclusion as the controversy surrounding aspartame will not go away. However it has led to consumer groups demanding more stringent studies and for aspartame to be removed from some products.
The soft drinks industry and the diet industry lead the way in using aspartame, so have the most to lose if it is found to be dangerous. It is used instead of sugar in diet sodas, and in diet products which proclaim that they are sugar free. There may be no sugar in a sugar free ice-cream but it has been replaced by a chemical additive.
All of the foods and chewing gum which contain aspartame are relatively new to supermarket shelves in the last few decades, leaving one to wonder how the nation survived without the taste of sugar in everything from vegetable drinks to high protein supplements before. Even the vitamin supplements you take may be aspartame enhanced.
If demand for processed food continues at such levels then aspartame and other dubious chemicals are going to be added to more and more products. One has to ask why anyone sees the need to drink a diet soda which is made up of nothing but chemical colored carbonated water which has nothing nutritionally beneficial to offer, and is cited by many as a cause of weight gain due to the chemical messages it sends through the body making it crave other sweet things and carbohydrates.
98 negative effects of aspartame have so far been reported and it has been linked to diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, lupus and cancer. The aspartame information site defends the product vigorously and dismisses its many critics as internet cranks who are scaremongering, and lists five organisations which support the safety claims of aspartame. However ,3 of the agencies listed, including the American Dietetic Association and the American Diabetes Association receive funding from the company which manufactures aspartame, Monsanto, so it hardly appears as impartial support.
Several food chains including the UK based Asda, now owned by WalMart, have responded to consumer concerns and removed aspartame from its own label food products. In the meantime consumers still call for yet more studies to be done, as deeply concerned over the long term effects of aspartame toxicity.
The current situation is that the FDA proclaim after numerous challenges and safety tests that aspartame is safe. It remains the most controversial food additive ever and it would appear wise to simply not purchase products which contain it as the controversy is still ongoing. It may well prove to be dangerous after long term studies, but by then possibly your children will have ingested large amounts. It is easy to play safe and use natural sweeteners such as honey, or accept that there is no need to consume artificially sweetened food in the first place as part of a healthy diet.