FDA, 11 GROUPS DEFEND SAFETY OF NUTRASWEET

WASHINGTON (FNS) -- The Grocery Manufacturers of America here joined with the Food and Drug Administration and 10 other associations this week to dispute charges against NutraSweet raised by a longtime critic of the sugar substitute.The study, published this month by Dr. John Olney, professor of psychiatry and neuropathology at Washington University Medical School, St. Louis, showed an increase in

WASHINGTON (FNS) -- The Grocery Manufacturers of America here joined with the Food and Drug Administration and 10 other associations this week to dispute charges against NutraSweet raised by a longtime critic of the sugar substitute.

The study, published this month by Dr. John Olney, professor of psychiatry and neuropathology at Washington University Medical School, St. Louis, showed an increase in brain tumors from 1975 to 1992 but did not link the rise to aspartame, NutraSweet's main ingredient.

Still, Olney held a press conference last week in conjunction with the Community Nutrition Institute and the Center for Science in the Public Interest to use the study to push for more research into aspartame's carcinogenic potential.

In defense of NutraSweet, the National Food Processors Association here said that after 23 years of research, scientists haven't been able to link aspartame to cancer.

"The national brands feel that aspartame is absolutely safe," said Jeff Nedelman, GMA spokesman. "The FDA has studied this issue 26 times over the past 23 years, and just this week the FDA's top cancer expert said this is a 'safe product for the public to use.' "

That expert, Dr. Michael A. Friedman, FDA deputy commissioner for operations, agreed with the GMA, NFPA, National Soft Drink Association and Calorie Control Council, which joined together at a press conference last week to reiterate that no connections have been found between aspartame consumption and human brain tumors.

"It is likely that no food product has ever been so closely examined for safety," Friedman said in a joint statement from the four associations.