A new campaign for Crystal Light, a sugarless powdered drink mix that is easily poured into tap or bottled water drinks, was announced by Kraft on January 2, this year, in a heavily advertised special health-themed issue of People Magazine. Aside from citric acid and sodium citrate, Crystal Light contains aspartame, an artificial sweetener that goes by the names NutraSweet and Equal.
The Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, Dr. Samuel S. Epstein, warns that aspartame is both toxic and carcinogenic, based on peer-reviewed scientific evidence presented to Congress. Aspartame should be banned from all dietary use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Crystal Light was first marketed in 1982 to make drinking water more enjoyable, but it has fewer calories than fruit juices, according to the coalition. After G.D. Searle synthesized Aspartame in 1965, it was widely used for sweetening tea and coffee, especially among those who are trying to lose weight. Aspartame has a 200-fold sweeter taste than sugar. In subsequent toxicology tests, Searle found brain damage in mice and cancer in rats’ liver, testes, and thyroids. However, the FDA did not publish or report the results of these tests.
Aspartame is the second most widely used artificial sweetener in the world after saccharin. More than 6,000 products are derived from it, including carbonated and powdered soft drinks, hot chocolate, chewing gum, candy, desserts, yogurt, tabletop sweeteners, as well as vitamins and cough drops without sugar. There are approximately 200 million people worldwide who consume aspartame and it accounts for about 60% of the market for artificial sweeteners.
In comparison to sugar, which is 200 times less sweet, aspartame saves manufacturers of food, soft drinks, candy, and chewing gum substantial amounts of money. A comprehensive review of the scientific literature on the toxicity of aspartame was conducted by the FDA Task Force in 1975. Aspartame is also a sweetener that contains no calories, helping people control their weight. Searle’s claims trivialized or suppressed evidence of aspartame’s carcinogenic and toxic effects, which revealed gross abuse in his claims. As part of his testimony before Congress in January 1976, then FDA Commissioner Alexander Schmidt explained that Hazleton Laboratories, contracted to Searle, falsified aspartame toxicological data. In response to concerns about the sweetener’s carcinogenic effects in experimental animals, the FDA convened a Public Board of Inquiry. The FDA recommended in 1980 that, pending confirmation of these findings, aspartame not be used in sweeteners pending confirmation of these findings. As a result, leading independent U.S. scientists confirmed these toxic effects. “The incredible range of abuses occurring in several major Searle products is profoundly disturbing,” Senator Edward Kennedy warned in response to these concerns in 1976.
As part of his invited testimony before the House Judiciary Committee in 1979, Dr. Epstein provided detailed evidence of Searle’s criminal denial of aspartame’s carcinogenicity along with other corporate crimes. Dr. John Olney, a leading independent U.S. scientist who conducted a comprehensive review of the scientific literature in 1996, confirmed that aspartame caused brain cancer in rodents when fed aspartame. The evidence was subsequently published in the Congressional Record.
Based on large-scale life-long feeding tests performed on large numbers of rats starting in infancy, the Ramazzini Foundation, a prestigious Italian organization, concluded ten years later that aspartame causes brain cancer, as well as other cancers. The Ramazzini study was published in the November 2005 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives, a peer-reviewed journal published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in the United States.
According to the Ramazzini scientists, aspartame is a multipotential carcinogenic compound whose carcinogenic effects can be observed at doses lower than the current acceptable daily intake for humans. Dr. Epstein notes that the Federal National Toxicology Program also endorsed these conclusions. Searle and its consultants, however, continue to claim that aspartame is safe, despite these conclusions being challenged. “Aspartame is unequivocally carcinogenic, and because of political gamesmanship which led to its original approval by the FDA,” Dr. Epstein says, “it is expected that Dr. Margaret Hamburg, the new FDA Commissioner, will ban aspartame from all dietary purposes.” Samuel S. Epstein, M.D. A former President of the Rachel Carson Trust and professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, he is currently Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition. Among his many awards are the Right Livelihood Award of 1989 and the Albert Schweitzer Golden Grand Medal for International Contributions to Cancer Prevention of 2005. 270 scientific articles and 15 books have been written by Dr. Epstein in relation to cancer causes and prevention. The most recent of these is Toxic Beauty (2009), which discusses carcinogens and other toxic ingredients in beauty products and cosmetics.
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