UK FSA to study anecdotal effects of aspartame

June 29, 2009

In light of continued anecdotal evidence of ill effects upon consuming aspartame, including headaches and upset stomachs, the U.K. Food Standards Agency (FSA) will begin a new pilot study. The research will focus on people who have reported bad reactions to the artificial sweetener. The planned study will involve participants being invited on two occasions to consume a specially developed food product that may or may not contain aspartame in a clinical setting and under medical supervision. Researchers will then record any symptoms and take a blood sample to measure biochemical parameters.

“This research is not to test the safety of aspartame—that is already established,” said Andrew Wadge, Chief Scientist at FSA. “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.”

This pilot study will start in July and could be used to inform the design and feasibility of a larger scale study that could be done at the European level. The FSA expects the pilot study to take 18 months and is currently in the process of identifying volunteers who are interested in taking part. Prospective participants should email aspartame@foodstandards.gsi.gov.uk prints to register their interest and obtain further information. The FSA hopes to publish the results early in 2011.

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