Unfortunately, the history of how aspartame came to be a societal mainstay is not a sweet one. Before becoming legal, aspartame was banned twice by the FDA. According to The Daily Health Post, in 1977, aspartame triggered the first criminal investigation of a manufacturer to ever be launched by the agency. The FDA went on to ban aspartame in 1980, after having three separate independent scientists study the sweetener.
Why? Because they found that there was a strong risk for aspartame to cause brain tumors. And of course, aspartame consumption is linked to a whole host of other health issues. According to New Zealand’s Safe Food Campaign, aspartame is linked to more health problems than MSG – a substance that is widely regarded as unhealthy and toxic.
Emails belonging to John Podesta that were released by WikiLeaks, didn’t just provide a broader view of establishment corruption; they also uncovered concerns about NutraSweet, which is primarily comprised of aspartame. A person identified as Wendy Abrams forwarded an email chain about NutraSweet to Podesta in 2015. Abrams had been emailing a man identified as Don Kennedy, and expressed her concern about the addition of aspartame to chocolate milk used in school lunches. Chocolate milk is consumed at a ratio of 4 to 1, compared to plain white milk. Abrams writes, “The current proposal from the Dairy lobby is to put NutraSweet in the chocolate milk we serve to school children.” She also expresses her belief that this effort needs to be brought to a grinding halt.
In another email with Kennedy, Abrams writes about her own negative experiences with aspartame. She said that in college, she drank so many beverages sweetened with NutraSweet that she developed exercise-induced asthma and headaches. Abrams also made note of concerning information she had acquired.
“I also have a friend who worked for the researchers at University of Chicago (which has a top rated neurology dept) and the doctors there said when they gave nutrasweet to lab mice, it literally blew holes in their brains. They said they will tell a pregnant woman to drink any amount of alcohol before touching a sip of nutrasweet, it is that bad.”
Kennedy responds by noting that he too has had great concerns over artificial sweeteners, and by divulging some concerning details about how aspartame finally came to be legalized. He explains that the day after Ronald Reagan’s inauguration, January 21, 1981, Searle – the original developer of aspartame – applied to the FDA for approval to use aspartame in food sweetener for a second time. Arthur Hayes Hull, Jr., Reagan’s newly appointed FDA commissioner, proceeded to appoint a 5-person scientific commission to review the board of inquiry’s decision.
When it became clear that the panel was going to uphold the ban with a 3–2 decision, Hull placed a sixth member on the commission so the vote would become deadlocked. Then Hull personally broke the tie in aspartame’s favor. Kennedy writes, “Hull later left the FDA under allegations of impropriety, served briefly as Provost at New York Medical College, and then took a position with Burston-Marsteller, the chief public relations firm for both Monsanto and GD Searle. Since that time he has never spoken publicly about aspartame.”
Does that seem a little suspicious to you? What is perhaps more upsetting is that people are aware this substance was approved under false pretenses, and yet no one has done anything to end its reign in American food.