An artificial sweetener used in Diet Coke is to undergo an urgent EU safety review.
Aspartame is ingested every day by millions of people around the world in more than 6,000 well-known brands of food, drink and medicine. However, it has been the subject of a number of studies that appear to show harmful effects on human health.
One recent study linked diet drinks containing aspartame to premature births, while another suggested it could cause cancer. To date, health watchdogs, including the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA), have ruled out any link to ill-health.
But after several MEPs asked for a new investigation following pressure from European health campaigners, EU Commission officials have now asked the EFSA to bring forward a review that had been planned for 2020.
The concern about artificial sweeteners such as aspartame relates to the fact that they contain methanol, a nerve toxin which can be metabolised in the body to form two more nerve toxins: formic acid and formaldehyde, the chemical used to preserve dead bodies.
Earlier this year, experts on Britain’s Committee on Toxicity(CoT) ruled that ‘long-term exposure to methanol consumed through food, including from aspartame, is unlikely to be harmful to health’.