Allegations that the artificial sweetener aspartame is linked to headaches and stomach upsets are to be investigated.
The Food Standards Agency say the sweetener, marketed as Nutrasweet and Canderel, is safe. However it has ordered a probe into consumer concerns.
The Agency's chief scientist Andrew Wadge, said: 'This research is not to test the safety of aspartame – that is already established. The study will address consumer concerns, including anecdotal reports that have linked a range of conditions to aspartame. The Agency’s view remains that aspartame can be consumed safely and we are not recommending any changes to its current use. However, we know that some people consider they react badly to consuming this sweetener so we think it is important to increase our knowledge about what is happening.’
The pilot study will start next month and will be used to inform the design and feasibility of a proposed study led by the European Food Safety Authority.
In May 2006, EFSA rejected a study by Italian scientists which named aspartame as a cancer risk. The watchdog said the study identifying a risk of leukaemia, kidney and other cancers was flawed. Subsequently, the author of the research, Dr Morandi Soffritti of the Ramazzini Foundation, stood by his team's findings and called for further research.