Aspartame Attorneys Serving New York and New Jersey

Aspartame, the artificial sweetener contained in over 5,000 consumer products and found in such well-known brands as NutraSweet and Equal, has been linked in studies to brain tumors, lymphomas, leukemias increased intracranial pressure, mentation deficits, motor deficits and other cancers. The belief among many health professionals and scientists is that the three components which formulate Aspartame, phenylalanine (50 percent), aspartic acid (40 percent), and methanol (10 percent), are the primary reasons for its deleterious health effects.

Components of Aspartame

As noted in by Consumer Reports, products containing phenylalanine must contain a label warning due to the genetic disorder, phenylketonuria (PKU). Individuals Aspartamewith this disorder lack an enzyme required to metabolize phenylalanine and therefore, it can accumulate in the body causing mental retardation. In addition, Dr. Louis J. Elsas, II, Director of Medical Genetics at Emory University School of Medicine, “recommends that pregnant women avoid aspartame sweeteners” as it is unknown what amount may be considered safe for the fetus.

The next component of Aspartame, aspartic acid, is a known excitotoxin, which Dr. Russell Blaylock, author of Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills, labels as “a group of excitatory amino acids that can cause sensitive neurons to die. According to Blaylock, a single meal may contain many of these excitotoxins and given a large dose, can contribute to the formation of brain lesions.

The final component of Aspartame, methanol, which is also known as wood alcohol, is a known toxin. The Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) recommends that individuals not consume more than eight milligrams of methanol per day. Despite this fact, a liter of diet soda containing aspartame has approximately 55 milligrams of methanol. Excessive methanol, also known as “methanol poisoning”, has been proven to cause blindness, brain swelling, pancreatitis, numbness, shooting pains, cardiac changes, and death. Furthermore, as stated by the Aspartame Consumer Safety Network, when ingested, methanol is broken down into formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.

History Of Aspartame

With such a seemingly lethal variety of ingredients, many wonder how aspartame was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”). While this question has been asked by many, consumer activist James Turner, Esq., investigated the facts surrounding the history of Aspartame, and published his findings. A summary follows below:

In 1965, a Searle scientist licked some of a new ulcer drug from his fingers and discovered the sweet taste of aspartame. Selling this chemical as a food additive to hundreds of millions of people would mean more profits than limited sales to a smaller group of ulcer sufferers. Searle’s early tests of aspartame showed it produced microscopic holes and tumors in the brains of mice, epileptic seizures in monkeys and was converted by animals into dangerous substances, including formaldehyde. In 1974, however, in spite of the information in its files, the FDA approved aspartame as a dry-foods additive. But the agency also made public for the first time the data supporting its decision and after being reviewed by renowned brain researcher Dr. John Olney of Washington University in St. Louis, he conducted his own studies. He concluded that aspartame caused brain tumors in rats and he petitioned the FDA for a public hearing.

Consumer Action for Improved Foods and Drugs also petitioned for a public hearing as the product reportedly caused epileptic seizures in monkeys and possible eye damage. Dr. Olney had already shown that aspartic acid (one aspartame component) caused microscopic holes in the brains of rats after each feeding. Aspartame also contained phenylalinine, which causes PKU in a small number of susceptible children, and methyl, or wood alcohol which is neurotoxic in large amounts. Faced with this array of possible health dangers, they granted the hearing requests. In lieu of withdrawing its aspartame approval, the agency prevailed on Searle to refrain from marketing the sweetener until after completion of the hearing process. It then proposed that a Public Board of Inquiry (PBOI) review the matter to evaluate the safety of Aspartame..

In July of 1975, an FDA inspector conducted a routine review of the Searle’s Skokie Ill., testing facilities and found many deviations from proper procedures. This report led the FDA commissioner to empanel a Special Commissioner’s Task Force to review Searle’s labs. In December 1975 the Task force reported serious problem with Searle research on a wide range of products, including aspartame. It found 11 pivotal studies conducted in a manner so flawed as to raise doubts about aspartame safety and create the possibility of serious criminal liability. The FDA then stayed aspartame’s approval, set up a task force to review three prior studies conducted by Searle and asked the U.S. Attorney for Chicago to seek a grand jury review of the monkey seizure study.

The FDA task force found Searle’s key tumor safety study unreliable, but their report was ignored. The U.S. Attorney allowed the statue of limitations to run out, then (along with two aides) proceeded to join Searle’s law firm. In October 1980 the PBOI reported its findings that the chemical caused an unacceptable level of brain tumors in animal testing. Based on this fact, the PBOI ruled that aspartame should not be added to the food supply and blocked aspartame marketing until the tumor studies could be explained.

Aspartame in Soft DrinksIn November 1980, after the election of Ronald Reagan as President, Donald Rumsfeld (president of Searle since January 1977) joined the Reagan transition team. In January 1981 Rumsfeld told a sales meeting, according to one attendee, that he would call in his chips and get aspartame approved by the end of the year. On January 25th, the day the new president took office, the previous FDA commissioner’s authority was suspended, and the next month, the commissioner’s job went to Dr. Arthur Hull Hayes. Transition records do not show why the administration chose Hayes, a professor and Defense Department contract researcher. In July Hayes, defying FDA advisors, approved aspartame for dry foods — his first major decision. In November 1983 the FDA approved aspartame for soft drinks — Hayes’ last decision. In November 1983 Hayes, under fire for accepting corporate gifts, left the agency and went to Searle’s public-relations firm as senior medical advisor. Thereafter, Monsanto purchased Searle and Rumsfeld received a $12 million bonus.

Shortly after the FDA soft-drink approval, Searle began test marketing, and complaints began to arrive at the FDA — of such reactions as dizziness, blurred vision, headaches, and seizures. The complaints were more serious than the agency had ever received on any food additive, At the same time, scientists began looking more closely at this manufactured chemical sweeetner. In 1985, the FDA asked the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to review the first 650 complaints (there are now over 10,000). CDC found that the symptoms in approximately 25% of the complainants had stopped and then restarted, corresponding with their having stopped and then restarted aspartame consumption.

The FDA ignored the report and the very day it released the CDC findings, Pepsi Cola — having obtained an advance copy — announced its switch to aspartame with a worldwide media blitz. The Pepsi announcement and aggressive marketing made NutraSweet known in every home. At the same time, according to data released in 1995, human brain tumors like those in the animal studies rose 10% and previously benign tumors turned virulent. Searle and FDA’s deputy commissioner said the data posed no problem. Two years later this same FDA official became vice president of clinical research for Searle. From 1985 to 1995, researchers performed about 400 aspartame studies. They were divided almost evenly between those that gave assurances and those that raised questions about the sweetener. Most instructively, Searle paid for 100% of those finding no problem. All studies paid for by non-industry sources raised questions.

Have you or a loved one suffered Aspartame side effects?

If you or a loved one have suffered serious injuries that may have been caused by Aspartame, we would like the opportunity to help you. Our qualified product liability attorneys, servicing New York and New Jersey, are experienced at handling cases of similar nature and are prepared to act in your best interest to help you obtain compensation for your losses and suffering. We offer a FREE, no-obligation consultation so that you can learn more about your legal rights and options. Please contact us today to learn more about Aspartame.

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