FDA Reviewing European Aspartame Data

New study contradicts earlier research with rats that found a link to cancer

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TUESDAY, May 9, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Monday that it is reviewing data on a since-discredited Italian study that claimed to find a link between long-term use of the artificial sweetener aspartame and cancer.

The European Ramazzini Foundation (ERF) study, released last year, concluded that long-term use caused cancer in rats and that its use by humans should be re-evaluated.

But the European Food Safety Authority released a study last week that said the popular sweetener does not increase the risk of cancer.

Authority members reviewed the Italian research and concluded that the number of tumors did not increase in relation to the amount of aspartame given to the rats, The Associated Press reported. Many of the rats used in the Italian study had suffered from chronic respiratory disease, which was the most likely cause of the tumors, the panel concluded.

The authority findings came a month after the release of a study of half a million Americans that found no link between aspartame and cancer, AP reported.

In a statement released Monday, the FDA said, "We are actively reviewing the data provided by ERF and will complete our review of those data as soon as possible. When FDA completes its review of the ERF study data, it will announce its conclusion."

After the ERF findings were published in 2005, the FDA requested the study data. It received a portion of that data in late February.

The FDA noted that since it was approved in the United States, the safety of aspartame has been questioned by some.

"To date, however, the agency has not been presented with scientific information that would support a change in our conclusions about the safety of aspartame. Those conclusions are based on a detailed review of a large body of information, including more than 100 toxicological and clinical studies regarding the sweetener's safety," the FDA said.

Aspartame is used in thousands of products, including chewing gum, sodas, and many medicines.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about sweeteners.

SOURCE: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, news release, May 8, 2006

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