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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Coke Zero Banned As a Health Threat by Venezuela

UPDATE, 22 June: UK Agency to Investigate Dangers of Aspartame
BY Sean Poulter
Aspartame, found in diet and other soft drinks, will be investigated after claims it causes nasty side effects such as headaches and stomach upsets
Allegations that the controversial artificial sweetener aspartame is linked to bad reactions such as headaches and stomach upsets are to be investigated.

Aspartame, which is also known by the brand name Nutrasweet, has been the subject of anecdotal claims of harm to health dating back more than a decade.

The manufacturers and the Government's Food Standards Agency (FSA) have concluded that the sweetener is safe.

However, the Agency has now ordered an investigation to answer continuing consumer concerns that aspartame consumption can trigger nasty side effects.

The Agency's chief scientist Andrew Wadge, said:'This research is not to test the safety of aspartame – that is already established.

'The study will address consumer concerns, including anecdotal reports that have linked a range of conditions to aspartame.

‘The Agency’s view remains that aspartame can be consumed safely and we are not recommending any changes to its current use.

'However, we know that some people consider they react badly to consuming this sweetener so we think it is important to increase our knowledge about what is happening.’

The pilot study will start next month and will be used to inform the design and feasibility of a proposed study led by the European Food Safety Authority.

In May 2006, EFSA rejected a study by Italian scientists which named aspartame as a cancer risk.

The watchdog said the study identifying a risk of leukaemia, kidney and other cancers was flawed.

Subsequently, the author of the research, Dr Morandi Soffritti of the Ramazzini Foundation, stood by his team's findings and called for further research.

A number of UK retailers, including Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury's and Asda, have voluntarily withdrawn aspartame from their own-label products as part of a wider drive to reduce the use of artificial additives.

Aspartame manufacturers claimed the Food Standards Agency was bowing to scare mongering rather than making decisions based on science.

A spokesman for the Aspartame Information Service, funded by manufacturer Ajinomoto, said she was puzzled as to why the Agency is spending public money on the new research.

The organisation issued a statement saying: 'Aspartame, like all low-calorie sweeteners, is approved for use in the European Union under the terms of the European Sweetener Directive.

'In May 2006, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) stated: "There is no need to further review the safety of aspartame."

'It is, therefore, surprising that the Food Standards Agency has announced that it is starting work on a further study on aspartame.

'Large scale quantified consumer research commissioned by Ajinomoto and conducted by ICM Research has shown that there is no significant level of consumer concern about low calorie sweeteners in general or aspartame in particular.'

It added: 'Aspartame, which is made from two amino acids, is digested just like any other protein and its components are treated by the body in exactly the same way as the same components in foods like meat, fish, eggs, milk and fruit juice.

It tastes like sugar and enables food and drink companies to provide many popular low-calorie and sugar-reduced products.

'Sales of products sweetened with aspartame have grown steadily since the ingredient was introduced in 1983.

'The FSA has explained its actions by referring to "anecdotal reports that have linked a range of conditions to aspartame". These include rumours circulated on the internet by scaremongers and conspiracy-theorists, mostly from the United States.

'In August 2007, the New Zealand Food Safety Authority, faced with the same absurd allegations, stated: 'The claims being made - and widely reported in the media - are doing a great public disservice. The fact is, a large amount of very good science shows that aspartame is a very safe substance.

'Studies that purport to show otherwise have thus far been overwhelmingly rejected by leading food safety authorities as flawed.'
Venezuela bans Coke Zero, cites "danger to health" 10 Jun 2009 23:49:38 GMT
NB: The issue is aspartame, a toxic substance known to cause obesity, diabetes, tumours, arthritis, seizures and more than 118 known health problems.

* Minister orders Coke Zero withdrawn from market
* Socialist government increasing scrutiny of business

CARACAS, June 10 (Reuters) - The Venezuelan government of U.S.-critic President Hugo Chavez on Wednesday ordered Coca-Cola Co to withdraw its Coke Zero beverage from the South American nation, citing unspecified dangers to health.

The decision follows a wave of nationalizations and increased scrutiny of businesses in South America's top oil exporter.

Health Minister Jesus Mantilla said the zero-calorie Coke Zero should no longer be sold and stocks of the drink removed from store shelves.

"The product should be withdrawn from circulation to preserve the health of Venezuelans," the minister said in comments reported by the government's news agency.

Despite Chavez's anti-capitalist policies and rhetoric against consumerism, oil-exporting Venezuela remains one of Latin America's most Americanized cultures, with U.S. fast-food chains, shopping malls and baseball all highly popular.

Mantilla did not say what health risks Coke Zero, which contains artificial sweeteners, posed to the population.

Coke Zero was launched in Venezuela in April and Coca-Cola Femsa , the Mexico-based company that bottles Coke products locally, said at the time it aimed to increase its market share for low calorie drinks by 200 percent.

Neither Coca-Cola nor the bottler responded to requests for comment on Wednesday.

The bottler was plagued with labor problems last year in Venezuela when former workers repeatedly blocked its plants demanding back pay.

The government this year has seized a rice mill and pasta factory belonging to U.S. food giant Cargill and has threatened action against U.S. drug company Pfizer .

Chavez has also nationalized a group of oil service companies including projects belonging to Williams Companies and Exterran . (Reporting by Fabian Cambero and Antonio de la Jara; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Christian Wiessner)
AlertNet news is provided by Reuters

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