Dispatches from the ISA conference

‘No artificial’ claims are undermining confidence: ISA chair

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Low calorie sweeteners Obesity

‘No artificial’ claims are undermining confidence: ISA chair
Food and drink manufacturers are ‘shooting themselves in the foot’ by continually advertising products with ‘no artificial’ labels, says Hans Heezen, chairman of the International Sweetener Association.

Speaking at the International Sweetener Association (ISA) conference in Brussels, Heezen told experts from academia and the food and beverage industry that the industry itself may be undermining the perceived safety of sweeteners – and other ingredients – by reformulating products to remove artificial and synthetic ingredients.

The ISA chairman argued that such labels only serve to reinforce misconceptions about the safety and efficacy of sweeteners. He said that by placing different, and often conflicting, labels and messages on different products within the same range or brand “manufacturers are hurting themselves, their consumers, and the wider public.”

Safety and the media

The ISA conference brought together scientific experts and food industry players to address the role of sweeteners in weight loss and appetite control, and highlight the safety and effectiveness of sweeteners.

Conference speakers included Andrew Renwick, Emeritus Professor at the University of Southampton, and journalist Trevor Butterworth, editor of STATS.org. They highlighted “a huge amount” ​of well performed and independently assessed evidence backing the safety of sweeteners, and said that many of the studies to suggest risks are very small and poorly performed.

Renwick explained that there are strict regulatory procedures which must be followed for a sweetener to be approved for use in the diet. He said that sweeteners used in foods and drinks have are subjected to comprehensive safety reviews before they are approved.

Butterworth added to the debate, arguing that the public image of low calorie sweeteners has been the victim of bad science:

“The weight of considered scientific evidence, the result of careful, independent, expert scrutiny, again and again shows that there is no evidence of a risk to health.”

“To argue otherwise, to turn problematic and discredited studies into certain, inviolable pronouncements, to intimate grand and global conspiracies, is to scare the public into abandoning an invaluable weapon in the fight against obesity,”​ he said.

Prof. Renwick added that when it comes to the safety of all food ingredients – not just sweeteners – much of the media will “jump on any negative links”​ but generally ignore a wealth of evidence, including regulatory approvals and known dose response relationships.

“‘Sweeteners judged to be safe by regulators’ as a headline does not sell newspapers, unfortunately it’s the scare stories that do,”​ he commented.

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1 comment

The NOAEL and ADI of aspartame are WRONG:

Posted by Jim McDonald,

I know my comment title may sound argumentative but I can assure you it is correct, The EFSA is currently pannicking and putting out all kinds of misinformation, about why they are being told by the European Commission they they MUST have a "full review of the safety of aspartame". This is strange in its self since it was only in May 2010 that EFSA concluded a 2 year review on the safety of aspartame and their national experts reccommended that it was safe? However, the AF delegates at the 36th AF meeting did not agree with their own experts and did not ratify their recconnendation, they deferred any further discussion until the results of the Hull pilot study ave been announced later in 2011 - so what has prompted this urgent review now? in a word METHANOL. They are covering up new evidence that we The "UK Aspartame Awareness Campaign"(UKAAC)passed to the FSA and EFSA in October 2009 and in March 2011 to the effect that due to the the 10% methanol content of aspartame the ADI is 35 times too high, and the NOAEL on which it is based is WRONG - If a 70kg man consumed the methanol content of the NOAEL (400mg/kg)it would probably Kill him. note: the acute lethal dose of methanol in man is 343mg/kg. We are calling for an immediate independent review of the NOAEL and ADI of aspartame which includes its 10% methanol. The full review the EFSA wants to take 13 months to complete is a total waste of time if the NOAEL and ADI are incorrect - to check these wil take all of 20 minutes. This post is from the UK so how will it affect Americans? the US ADI for aspartame is 50mg/kg which is 25% higher than the UK our calculations show that for the last 30 years your have all been consuming aspartame at a level 44 times higher than is safe - Professor Andrew Renwick has thre details

Jim McDonald

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