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MP calls for total ban on sweetener in cancer alert.

Byline: By MADELEINE BRINDLEY Western Mail

A welsh MP's hopes of banning a common artificial sweetener from more than 6,000 foods now lie in European bureaucrats' hands. Roger Williams, MP for Brecon and Radnor, used parliamentary privilege to raise serious concerns about the safety of aspartame last week.

He called for an emergency ban on the substance which is 200 times sweeter than sugar and used by one in every 15 people worldwide every day, most of them children.

It is found in items such as Diet Coke, Lucozade, crisps, cough and cold remedies and in chewing gum.

He also highlighted new and disturbing research which has found that the sweetener causes cancer in rats - thought to be indicative of its effect on humans.

Despite Mr Williams presenting a dossier of information on aspartame and detailing the 'conspiracy' which led to its approval, the UK government has said it believes the sweetener is safe.

Mr Williams, a member of the parliamentary select committee on food and the environment, is now hoping the European Food Safety Authority will act on new research findings and ban the sweetener from the food chain.

Speaking last night he said, 'There are two strands to aspartame - its effect on the nervous system and the cancer issue.

'Both of these concerns are real and it is our view that they are of such concern that they should lead the government to fully reassess the potential dangers.'

There have been concerns about the safety of aspartame and its effect on health for decades.

But new, independent, research from the European Ramazzini Foundation shows that moderate regular consumption of aspartame led to a repeated incidence of malignant tumours in rats.

After studying the rats over their normal lifespan of some three years - lab rats tend to be culled after two years - the Italian researchers found that feeding the rats varying levels of aspartame caused a 'statistically significant increase' of lymphomas and leukaemias, malignant tumours of the kidney in female rats and malignant tumours of the peripheral and cranial nerves in male rats.

Last week in the House of Commons, Mr Williams called for a ban.

'I believe that aspartame should never have been licensed for use as a low-calorie sweetener in foods and drinks, and that there is compelling and reliable evidence for this carcinogenic substance to be banned from the UK food and drinks market.'

He added, 'There is solid evidence to suggest that its regular long-term use can cause cancer and a range of other health problems.

'Emergency action is now needed to remove the toxin from our own and our children's diets.

'A total ban is the only way to protect the British public.'

But English Public Health Minister Caroline Flint said

, 'As far as I am advised, aspartame is not known to cause cancer in humans and the evidence does not indicate the potential for it to do so.

'Our procedure in the European Union is to keep an open mind about any new evidence that comes forward.

'However, we should not lose sight of the fact that additives are approved only if they are of benefit to consumers and are shown to be safe at the levels used in foods.'

The European Food Safety Authority has said it will review the Ramazzini findings as 'a matter of high priority'.

Responding to Mr Williams's debate on the safety of aspartame in the House of Commons, the industry's Aspartame Information Service said it brought no new information to the public.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 19, 2005
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