Aspartame Not Toxic, Says EFSA

January 9, 2013

After reviewing new data, the food health agency is standing behind its previous position.

EFSA has reconfirmed the safety of aspartame in a draft scientific opinion based on peer-reviewed literature on the artificial sweetener and its breakdown products. The European Commission requested that EFSA conduct a thorough evaluation of aspartame as part of a larger investigation into the safety of food additives.

Aspartame is approximately 200 times as sweet as table sugar, but limited animal research has demonstrated potential toxicity due to phenylalanine, one of aspartame’s breakdown products. High levels of phenylalanine can be toxic, and a rare disorder called phenylketonuria (PKU) can result in dangerously high phenylalanine levels in humans. In the EU, all products containing aspartame must be labeled “Contains a source of phenylalanine” for this reason.

Based on a review of published and previously published data, including 112 documents included in the original EU food additive submission for aspartame, “[Aspartame and its breakdown products] pose no toxicity concern for consumers at current levels of exposure,” said EFSA. “The current Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) is considered to be safe for the general population and consumer exposure to aspartame is below this ADI.”

Aspartame’s ADI is 40 mg/kg of bodyweight daily.

Before EFSA’s aspartame opinion is finalized, interested parties can submit feedback online until February 15, 2013. A final scientific opinion is scheduled for May 2013.