Sunday, May 07, 2006 - EU: Popular sugar substitute safe - May 5, 2006 - EU: Popular sugar substitute safe - May 5, 2006:

"ROME, Italy (AP) -- European food safety experts have good news for dieters with a sweet tooth, announcing Friday that the popular sugar substitute aspartame does not raise the risk of cancer.

An Italian study last year wrongly concluded that the sweetener led to higher rates of lymphoma and leukemia in rats, said an independent panel of scientists advising the European Food Safety Authority.

The new review found that the number of tumors did not increase in relation to the dosage of aspartame fed to the animals. Many of the rats in the study had suffered from chronic respiratory disease and that was the most likely cause of the tumors, the panel said.

The findings support a huge U.S. federal study released last month, which found no link to cancer in a study of aspartame use among more than half a million Americans.

The European panel said its assessment should put the lid on years of debate over the sweetener found in thousands of products, including diet sodas, chewing gum, dairy products and even many medicines.

'There is no reason ... to undertake any further extensive review of the safety of aspartame,' said Iona Pratt, a toxicologist who headed the panel.

The food safety scientists were also satisfied with the current European level set for the safe daily consumption of aspartame -- a maximum of 40 milligrams per kilogram of body weight -- saying that the limit is well above what people consume normally.

'If you pick up little packets of it, you would have to take 80 of those packets into your coffee in one day in order to exceed this level,' Pratt said at a presentation in Rome of the panel's findings."

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