Feb 15, 2010

Sweet Rebranding

In response to growing awareness about the dangers of artificial sweeteners, what does the manufacturer of one of the world's most notable artificial sweeteners do? Why, rename it and begin marketing it as natural, of course! This is precisely the strategy of Ajinomoto, maker of aspartame, which hopes to pull the old shell game with the public with its rebranded version of aspartame, called "AminoSweet". It's all natural!

You see, 25 years ago, aspartame was first introduced into the European food supply. Today, it has found itself in most diet beverages, sugar-free desserts, and chewing gums - worldwide. But thanks to Food Inc., Eric Schlosher, The China Study, and Blasphemes.com the general public is slowly waking up to the truth about artificial sweeteners like aspartame and the harm they [may] cause to human health. This new aspartame marketing scheme seems aimed at indoctrinating the public into accepting the chemical sweetener as natural and safe, despite all those dead rat.

Aspartame is around 200 times sweeter than sugar and is used in more than 4,000 products, including diet drinks, cereal bars, yogurt and chewing gum.

A quick tour in the history bus, Aspartame was an accidental discovery by James Schlatter, a chemist who had been trying to produce an anti-ulcer pharmaceutical drug for G.D. Searle & Company in 1965. Upon mixing aspartic acid and phenylalanine, two naturally-occurring amino acids, he discovered that the new compound had a sweet taste. The company changed its FDA approval application from drug to food additive: aspartame and TAB were born.

G.D. Searle & Company first patented aspartame in 1970. An internal memo released in the same year urged company executives to work on getting the FDA into the "habit of saying yes" and of encouraging a "subconscious spirit of participation" in getting the chemical approved.

G.D. Searle & Company submitted its first petition to the FDA in 1973 and fought for years to gain FDA approval, submitting its own safety studies. Many folks believed, even at the time, that their studies were inadequate and deceptive. Despite numerous objections, including one from its own scientists, the company was able to convince the FDA to approve aspartame for commercial use in a few products in 1974.

In 1976, then FDA Commissioner Alexander Schmidt wrote a letter to Sen. Ted Kennedy expressing concern over the "questionable integrity of the basic safety data submitted for aspartame safety". FDA Chief Counsel Richard Merrill believed that a grand jury should investigate G.D. Searle & Company for lying about the safety of aspartame in its reports and for concealing evidence proving the chemical is unsafe for consumption.

Despite all that evidence showing that aspartame is a dangerous toxin, it has remained on the global market with the exception of a few countries that have banned it. In fact, it continued to gain approval for use in new types of food despite evidence showing that it causes neurological brain damage, cancerous tumors, and endocrine disruption, among other things. Oh, is that all?

Previous reviews by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the European Food Safety Authority have concluded that aspartame is safe, but some people complain they develop headaches, dizziness, vomiting, diarrhoea and fatigue after eating food containing the chemical. I would assume these would be benificial side effects if you were trying to lose weight... but everyone's a critic.

My guess would be that a fairly concentrated lobby effort helped the FDA make it's decisions. But, like I said, there's new sweetners on the block and aspertame's got that bad dead rat cancer aftertaste.

So if they simply change aspartame's name to something that is "appealing and memorable", in Ajinomoto's own words.

Ajinomoto brands aspartame 'AminoSweet' - FoodBev.com

Aspartame History Highlights - Janet Starr Hull

FDA's approval of aspartame under scrutiny - The Globe and Mail (Canada)

An Overdue Ban On A Dangerous Sweetener - Huffington Post


The Food Standards Agency is launching an investigation into the artificial sweetener aspartame amid claims that some people experience side-effects after consuming the substance.

Scientists funded by the agency will test whether certain people develop a range of illnesses after eating food prepared with the sweetener.

Researchers led by Professor Stephen Atkin, head of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism at the Hull York Medical School, will look for signs of illness in volunteers after they consume cereal bars made with or without aspartame.

Atkin's group is recruiting 50 people who believe they are sensitive to aspartame. The volunteers will be matched by age and sex to 50 volunteers who are happy to eat the sweetener.

In the study, individuals will be randomly assigned an aspartame or aspartame-free cereal bar and given psychological and medical checks up to four hours after consuming it. The following week, the experiment will be repeated with each volunteer receiving the other type of cereal bar. The scientists will take blood and urine samples before and after each test.

Aspartame breaks down in the digestive system into aspartic acid, methanol and phenylalanine. Some individuals believe it is these chemicals that cause their symptoms. The tests will allow scientists to link any ill effects to levels of the chemicals in the volunteers' blood and urine.

"This is a fundamental study for the people who believe they are sensitive to aspartame, because it will hopefully prove or disprove whether or not aspartame can cause problems," Prof Atkin said.

The study is expected to be completed next year and will be published as a report to the FSA.

A spokesman for the agency said: "We know that aspartame can be consumed safely but some people consider that they react badly to it. We've commissioned this research because it's important to increase our knowledge about what is happening. The study will address consumer concerns, including these anecdotal reports."

Food safety officials are expected to fund a larger investigation if the study finds evidence that people can be sensitive to the sweetener.

A spokeswoman for the Aspartame Information Service, an industry body, said: "Aspartame has been on the market for more than 25 years and studies have been done on it from every angle. We get more of these breakdown products from the rest of our diets than we get from aspartame.

"The whole anecdotal area [of sensitivity] has been looked at before, so why start another round of research? Our concern is that people might be attributing to aspartame something that might have a more serious cause."

Patience Purdy, honorary vice president of the National Council of Women of Great Britain, which campaigns for aspartame to be banned on health grounds, said: "It's good the FSA are taking this seriously, but our concern is that the study is inadequate. We all react differently to aspartame."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2009/ ... de-effects

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