A controversial artificial sweetener is being removed from Diet Pepsi in the US amid consumer concerns about its safety. The decision to swap sweeteners comes as Americans consumers keep turning away from popular diet sodas. Coca-Cola have said that their sales volume for Diet Coke, which also uses aspartame, fell 5 percent in North America in the first three months of the year.
Aspartame-free cans of the drink will go on sale from August in America, but not in Britain. Regulators in the UK and the US insist aspartame is still safe to use in soft drinks. PepsiCo says its decision is a commercial one – responding to consumer preferences.
Aspartame has always been a controversial ingredient since it was first approved for use in the 1980s, despite being one of the most thoroughly tested and studied food additives.
Aspartame, also known as E951, is low-calorie (4kcal/g) and up to 200 times sweeter than sugar. Thousands of foods and drinks around the world use it as a sugar substitute, including cereals, sugar-free chewing gum, low-calorie (diet) soft drinks and table top sweeteners.
Food safety experts have been keeping its use under close scrutiny since a number of anecdotal reports pointed to potential side-effects.
A study published by the Ramazzini Foundation in Bologna, Italy, in July 2005 claimed to have shown that rats given dosages of aspartame equivalent to those in humans may develop tumours. However, European regulators who assessed this research were not convinced by it and concluded that aspartame could still be used as a food additive.
Moreover, Cancer Research UK have said there is no evidence that sweeteners in general are associated with cancer risk in humans.