Last updated on 4 December 2013
COT position paper on aspartame study published
The Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer products and the Environment (COT) has peer reviewed a double blind randomised crossover study of aspartame, commissioned by the Food Standards Agency (FSA). COT is a committee of independent experts that provides advice to the FSA and other parts of government.
What the Committee concluded
The expert Committee concluded that 'the results presented did not indicate any need for action to protect the health of the public'. The full minutes of the COT discussion have not yet been published, as a report of the study has been submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
The study has been led by Hull York Medical School and the results were discussed in closed session at the COT meeting on 29 October 2013.
The full COT position paper can be found via the link towards the bottom of this page.
About the study
The research aimed to record any effects from eating a snack bar that may or may not have contained aspartame. The study recruited individuals who reported reactions after consuming aspartame, alongside a matched control group of individuals who normally consume foods containing aspartame without problems.
The work took the form of a double blind randomised crossover study, the gold standard of scientific research. This type of study is designed to test the effect of a substance in such a way that neither the research team nor the participants know whether the bar consumed contains the test substance or not. Double blind studies therefore eliminate the risk of prejudgement by participants or researchers which could distort the results.
Further information about the study can be found via the link below (project code FS231010).
A research paper containing the detail and results of the study has been submitted by the researchers for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. The FSA will publish the full study once it has appeared in a journal.
The Hull York Medical School study, which was commissioned by the FSA, looked at the reported effects of self-diagnosed reactions to aspartame and did not consider the overall safety evaluation of aspartame.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), as part of its systematic re-evaluation of all currently permitted food additives, is carrying out a safety evaluation of aspartame; this is due to be published this month. The FSA will share the results of the Hull study with EFSA when it is published.
Aspartame is an approved additive and is also referred to as E951.
It is an intense sweetener, approximately 200 times sweeter than sugar, which has been used in soft drinks and other low calorie or sugar free foods throughout the world for more than 25 years.
Sweeteners and all other food additives are regulated and may only be used once their safety has been rigorously assessed. Further information about aspartame can be found via the 'Aspartame' link below.