The Advisory Forum of EFSA discussed the issue of aspartame in 2007 and at the 24th AF meeting held on 6-7 December 2007 it was agreed that a special meeting would be held on aspartame. This meeting of National Experts was to take place early in 2009 and, as provided in the Terms of Reference endorsed by the Advisory Forum, was to review the information available on aspartame; agree on the completeness of the information ensuring any missing data was added; identify possible data gaps and discrepancies in the available data and where such exist to consider detailed options to address the outstanding issues.
An Organising Team, nominated by members of the Advisory Forum, was tasked with preparing for the meetings of National Experts by identifying, collating and reviewing all published papers on aspartame since the review carried out by the Scientific Committee on Food in 2002. In addition the Organising Team also considered available non-peer reviewed information and anecdotal claims by individuals who attributed various symptoms and illnesses directly to aspartame consumption. A meeting was held with interested parties who had submitted information in response to a =call for data‘ published by EFSA in September, 2008.
Each of the areas considered, including exposure data, brain function, satiation and appetite, allergenicity and immunotoxicity, metabolic aspects and diabetes, carcinogenicity (including cancer epidemiology) and genotoxicity were considered by the Organising Team and reported on. For each, consistent with the Terms of Reference for the National Expert Meeting, they made preliminary conclusions on whether there were data gaps or discrepancies which required further consideration. This report represents the results of these deliberations.
Overall, the Organising Team did not identify any major gaps in information on aspartame and the National Experts agreed with their view. However, several suggestions are made within this report for additional data which would add to the available knowledge on aspartame and its metabolites. To address the communications element of the Terms of Reference a workshop with stakeholders and other interested parties is to be arranged to share and discuss the findings of the work.
In conclusion, the National Experts have not identified any new evidence that requires a recommendation to EFSA that the previous Opinions of EFSA and the SCF need to be reconsidered.