21 August 2007
Unsubstantiated scaremongering claims by Soil & Health spokesperson Steffan Browning could cause some people real harm says the New Zealand Food Safety Authority.
“There are many foods where formaldehyde is naturally produced as part of normal digestion. Tomatoes and citrus fruits produce far more than aspartame. It’s normal and not at all harmful in the levels produced,” says NZFSA expert toxicologist John Reeve.
“If these reports didn’t get taken seriously by some people they would be laughable. However, people could be put off artificial sweeteners in favour of sugar, with its associated known contribution to obesity, diabetes and similar.”
“The science is clear, uncontested and accepted across the world by government health and food safety agencies alike. Aspartame is safe for everybody, apart from those few people with the rare metabolic phenylketonuria (PKU) disorder – and aspartame must be labelled to assist them control their level of phenylalanine.
“Furthermore, claims saying that aspartame leads to unsafe levels of formaldehyde in people are just ridiculous.”
NZFSA scientists say the metabolism of aspartame in the human body is well-known.
“In the gastrointestinal tract aspartame is hydrolyzed to one of its component materials, methanol, as well as the two amino acids, phenylalanine and aspartic acid. This methanol is taken up by the cells of the body and metabolized first to formaldhyde and then to formate. The key information that is missing from the highly misleading Soil & Health claim is that the levels of ingestion are very small.
In fact, there are other foodstuffs that we ingest that supply as much and sometimes even more methanol, eg, citrus fruits and juices, and tomatoes or tomato juice. Thus, in the final analysis this methanol is the same as from other sources of food and in the quantities consumed from aspartame, it is readily and naturally metabolized via the one-carbon biochemical cycle to entirely innocuous and natural body components.
“New Zealanders can be assured that NZFSA takes its government mandated mission to protect human health seriously.”
For further comment contact: John Reeve, Principal Advisor (Toxicology): phone (029) 894 2533
For further information contact: Gary Bowering, Manager (Communications): phone
(029) 894 2532