In Britain, a member of the Parliamentary Committee on Food and the Environment called for an immediate ban on the artificial sweetener aspartame, which is found in 6,000 different foods, drinks and medicines. Roger Williams, a Liberal Democrat, said at a recent hour in parliament that "there is convincing and reliable evidence to make this carcinogenic substance completely disappear from the British food market." When the authorities around the world approved aspartame, they had violated their most important task of protecting the public, he told the other MEPs.
Aspartame and cancer
Mr. Williams strongly expressed his concerns about the safety of this additive, which emerged from a recent study from Italy, which revealed a link between aspartame and cancers in rats. He said the history of approval of aspartame was "a disgrace to politicians and authorities," with people like Donald Rumsfeld - then US Secretary of Defense and former chairman of Searle, the company that developed the sweetener - having their relationships played, to enforce the approval. Health Minister Caroline Flint answered for the UK government, claiming that a thorough and independent risk assessment had only been carried out in 2001, and that the Food Standards Agency's recommendation had not changed: aspartame was harmless as a food ingredient. She added that the government takes the safety of food very seriously.
"As far as I know, aspartame does not cause cancer," she said, adding that artificial sweeteners are helpful in fighting overweight. The European Food Safety Authority will review the Italian study as soon as all the details are available; However, a preliminary review by a UK committee of toxicology experts has concluded that, as far as the interpretation of the data is concerned, they disagree with their Italian counterparts.
Aspartame is consumed on average by one in every 15 people worldwide, most of whom are children, the MEP reported. It is used to sweeten no less than 6,000 products, including chips, sweets, chewing gum, diet and sports drinks, and vitamin pills and medications, including those for children. But the scientific studies that supported his admission were "one-sided, inconsistent and incompetent".
Mr. Williams said he used his immunity as a member of parliament to trigger a debate on the safety of aspartame, which has been more or less suppressed since the early 1980s with the help of confectionery industry lawyers. Independent research by the European Ramazzini Foundation has shown that moderate but regular consumption of aspartame in rats has led to the recurrence of malignant tumors, which "should have triggered alarm in the ministries of health in the world," said Williams. "The World Health Organization considers findings in rats to be indicative of a high risk of human cancer, and the deviation of the results of the Ramazzini study from those commissioned by industry is very significant and could not be more damaging to the latter."
Mr Williams, a member of the Brecon and Radnorshire district who studied natural science in Cambridge, said he had been working on the safety of aspartame for over a year. Initially, the "conspiracy theories on the Internet" did not convince him, but what he finally found out had "really shocked" him. Aspartam's approval process shone on sound scientific work and genuine independence of authorities and politicians in the absence, he said. In addition to the role that Mr. Rumsfeld played in this process, with the support of the then newly elected President Ronald Reagan, there are numerous examples of key individuals who, after voicing concerns about the safety of aspartame, have been discredited or their posts should have vacated.In their place were sympathizers of industry moved, which were then rewarded with lucrative jobs in the confectionery industry.
The European Food Safety Authority announced on 14 December that the safety of aspartame should be re-examined in the light of the Ramazzini's "highest priority" study. The head of the foundation, Dr. med. Morando Soffritti said he expected him to send the authorities a 1,000-page dossier by the end of the month. The Aspartame Information Service of the industry (Aspartame Information Service) said Mr. Williams' material contained no news for the consumer: "The minister's answer was correct and correct," the statement said.
(Source: Felicity Lawrence, The Guardian, UK, December 15, 2005)
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