Health for humans, animals & plants

Aspartame information

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Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that is about 200 times sweeter than sugar. Like all other food additives, aspartame must be indicated on the label either by its name or its E number (E 951).

In a recent publication, the United Nations International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified aspartame as "possibly carcinogenic" (Cat 2B). It sees limited evidence of a link with a certain form of liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma). However, the IARC emphasizes that it only assesses whether a substance could in principle cause cancer. It does not take into account how much of it a person would have to ingest to be at risk of disease.

In contrast, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), which deals with the assessment of human health risks following the consumption of certain substances, concludes that there is no convincing evidence that aspartame has adverse effects following ingestion. These findings are in line with the conclusions of EFSA's 2013 assessment on aspartame, which established an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of 40 mg/kg body weight for this food additive.

Situation in Austria

AGES regularly tests foods for their aspartame content. In 2021, the dietary intake of aspartame in Austria was estimated. All samples that were examined at AGES from January 2016 to June 2021 were taken into account. However, a large proportion of the samples tested were below the limit of quantification. The daily intake of aspartame in children, adolescents, adults and pregnant women was between max. 0.16-1.38 mg/kg bw/day. This means that their intake is only about 3.5% of the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI). The product groups that contribute most to aspartame intake are "fruit juices, fruit syrups and fruit juice concentrates", "soft drinks" and "confectionery".

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) investigated the concentrations of sweeteners in soft drinks. The concentrations for aspartame ranged from <1 - 492 mg/liter. Using these values from the BfR, a 70 kg person could consume 5.7 liters of the beverage with the highest concentration daily without any health effects from aspartame. If the mean value of 74.9 mg/liter is taken, this would be 37 liters.

The hazard and risk assessment reports on aspartame now published by IARC and JECFA will feed into EFSA's ongoing re-evaluation of the aspartame-acesulfame salt (E 962). Aspartame-acesulfame salt is a mixture of the two sweeteners aspartame (E 951) and acesulfame K (E 950). In this re-evaluation, EFSA is taking into account all relevant new studies since the last evaluation of aspartame (E 951) in 2013. The dietary exposure assessment of aspartame is also being updated by EFSA.

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