On August 10th 2015, Diet Pepsi, Caffeine Free Diet Pepsi and Wild Cherry Diet Pepsi were officially available at retailers throughout the U.S., for the first time without Aspartame, the artificial sweetener 200x sweeter than regular sugar.
Aspartame has been a controversial sweetener since it first arrived on the market in the 1980s but in recent years has grown in controversy and conversation as activists continue to claim there is a link between aspartame and physical ailments and science continue to say there is not.
For all New Yorkers, what’s the truth? Here is a brief overlook of all things Aspartame (as found on healthline.com):
Controversy: Sugar-free products are popular, but the leading artificial sweetener, aspartame, is controversial. Activists claim there’s a link between aspartame and a multitude of ailments, including: cancer, seizures, depression, lupus and multiple sclerosis. Despite extensive testing on aspartame, these claims have not been supported in clinical studies.
What is it? People in New York City may know aspartame by one of its brand names: NutraSweet or Equal. Aspartame is also used widely in products like diet drinks, yogurt, chewing gum, and cereals. The ingredients of aspartame are aspartic acid and phenylalanine. Both are naturally occurring amino acids. Aspartic acid is produced by your body and phenylalanine is an essential amino acid that you get from food.
When your body processes aspartame, part of it is broken down into methanol. Although toxic in large quantities, small quantities of methanol are naturally produced by the body and are also found in fruit, fruit juice, fermented beverages, and some vegetables. The amount of methanol resulting from the breakdown of aspartame is low. In fact, it’s far lower than the amount found in many common foods.
Who Approved It? A number of regulatory agencies and health-related organizations have weighed in favorably on aspartame. It has gained approval from the:
• Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
• United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization
• World Health Organization
• American Heart Association
• American Dietetic Association
Side Effects: A review of credible medical and scientific resources fails to find a reliable link between aspartame and the side effects claimed by critics. However, people who have a condition called phenylketonuria (PKU) should not use aspartame. People who are taking medications for schizophrenia should also avoid aspartame.
As controversy between bloggers and scientists/medical organizations (including the American Cancer Society) grows, Seth Kaufman, SVP Pepsi and Flavors Portfolio, PepsiCo North America Beverages noted that, “Diet cola drinkers in the U.S. told us they wanted aspartame-free Diet Pepsi and we’re delivering. We recognize consumer demand in evolving and we’re confided cola-lovers will enjoy the crisp, light taste of this new product.”
Coca Cola however does not agree. Upon the release of aspartame-free Diet Pepsi, Sandy Douglas, president of Coca-Cola North America stated, “Our view is that Diet Coke’s principle equity is great taste. We’re going to be very careful before we change the taste of it. We follow the consumer. The consumer’s telling us, ‘don’t change Diet Coke; we love it just the way it is,’ but at the same time there is a lot of junk science and alarmism around low- and no-calorie sweeteners that we have to address, and most importantly we have to ask third parties to help us address it because in the end low- or no-calorie sweeteners are 100% safe. We would never sell an ingredient in one of our products that wasn’t safe.”
Moving forward Coca Cola will work on educating consumers on the safety of artificial sweeteners rather than reformulating its diet drinks.
What do you think?