EFSA last night confirmed that it has accepted the mandate to bring forward the re-evaluation of aspartame from 2020 to 2012, “stipulating the need for a public call for new data as well as a thorough literature review”.
Details of the public call for data will be published on EFSA’s website in the coming weeks.
The authority will liaise closely with the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES) on its nutritional risk/benefit assessment of sweeteners.
In a statement provided to FoodNavigator as EFSA’s confirmation came through, Ajinomoto displayed its confidence in the ingredient.
“EFSA reaffirmed the safety of aspartame in 2006, 2009 and 2010. In addition,recent allegations about the safety of aspartame made in France and by a handful of MEPs have already been dismissed by EFSA,” said Ajinomoto in a statement.
“This review of the extensive body of science on aspartame will provide additional confirmation of the ingredient's safety.”
Why bring forward?
A spokesperson for John Dalli, Commissioner for Health and Consumers, said there are several reasons for bringing forward the review with a 13-month deadline.
Firstly, he said “there have been concerns lately and questions from MEPs”. At the second reading of the proposed food information regulation last month MEPs voted for a mandatory warning label on products about aspartame consumption in pregnancy.
In addition, he said EFSA said earlier this year that two recent studies on aspartame, a mouse study on carcinogenicity and an epidemiological study in sweeteners and pre-term delivery, did not give reason to reconsider safety of aspartame and over approved sweeteners – but subsequently decided to do an in-depth study.
EFSA’s scientific opinion on interpretation of the results of the carcinogenicity study, as well as suggested implications of methanol reported in both studies, is due by the end of this year.
All about the methanol?
Beyond the Commission spokesperson’s reasons, however, the UK Aspartame Awareness Campaign (UKAAC) believes the new review is due to concerns over methanol.
In 2009 it sent data to EFSA that “suggested that the ADI was 35 times too high for safety”; it followed up in March this year with cleans that followed this with more evidence in March this year with evidence it says shows the NOAEL(No Observable Adverse Level) used to establish the ADI was wrong.
In an email correspondence the campaign’s Jim McDonald said he is calling for the ADI and NOAEL of aspartame to be independently re-assessed to include the 10% methanol. He believes that a full review without first re-assessing the ADI “would be pointless”.