Aspartame Making a Deadly Comeback

October 2, 2016 in News by RBN Staff

Artificial sweeteners are displayed, on Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014, in New York. Artificial sweeteners may set the stage for diabetes in some people by hampering the way their bodies handle sugar, according to results of a study released Wednesday by the journal Nature. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane)

By James Spounias

Sold under the names NutraSweet, Equal, and now AminoSweet, the toxic sugar substitute aspartame is an example of all that is wrong with America when it comes to food safety, politics, and greed. Aspartame’s thousands of reported side effects include headaches, memory loss, seizures, vision loss, coma, lupus, fibromyalgia, muscular dystrophy, Alzheimer’s, chronic fatigue, diabetes, and depression. Even Food and Drug Administration (FDA) toxicologists and investigators have said it may be responsible for brain tumors and other severe health maladies, yet it’s legal.

Aspartame continues to be consumed by millions worldwide as an ingredient of numerous foods and drinks despite its controversial status ever since the FDA approved it in 1974. Consumer-oriented and public health-oriented scientists claimed aspartame may be linked to an increase in brain tumors, particularly in infants and children, while scientists tied to G.D. Searle of Skokie, Ill. stated the sweetener was safe.

Shortly after aspartame was initially approved in 1974, the FDA put this approval on hold, in 1975, in light of the fact that FDA investigators revealed several problems with G.D. Searle’s scientific findings of safety, upon which the FDA had relied.  Then-FDA Commissioner Alexander M. Schmidt requested a task force look at the aspartame question, and the task force found that early tests were terribly flawed. For instance, tumors that developed in rats given aspartame were cut out and discarded, instead of being analyzed to see if they were brought on by aspartame and reported. Also, a rat that died during the study was not carefully dissected to determine whether the death was related to aspartame, and rats recorded as dead were later reported as alive. Finally, antibiotics were administered to rats but no reporting was made.

Schmidt testified to a 1975 Senate Subcommittee, stating that Searle’s tests were “at best sloppy,” reflecting “a pattern of conduct which compromises the scientific integrity of the studies.” Schmidt added, “At the heart of the FDA’s regulatory process is its ability to rely upon the integrity of the basic safety data submitted by the sponsors of regulated products. Our investigation clearly demonstrates that, in the G.D. Searle Co., we have no basis for such reliance now.”

Searle’s conduct was so bad that Schmidt’s task force requested U.S. Attorney Samuel Skinner in Chicago present findings to a grand jury for possible criminal indictment. According to The Washington Post, a grand jury did consider the evidence, but was never asked to vote on an indictment. Skinner withdrew from the Searle case, later accepting a position with Sidley and Austin, the law firm representing Searle.

Donald Rumsfeld served as CEO, president, and chairman of Searle from 1977 until the company was sold to Monsanto in 1985. One of Rumsfeld’s major accomplishments was having aspartame reapproved by the FDA in 1981. Searle submitted an approval petition on Jan. 21, 1981, the day after President Ronald Reagan took office. On July 24, 1981, aspartame was approved as a table-top sweetener and ingredient in dry foods by Reagan appointee FDA Commissioner Arthur Hull Hayes Jr.  Following this, aspartame sales skyrocketed. In 1984, Kidder Peabody estimated sales of aspartame reached $600 million.

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