The Shocking Story of How Aspartame Became Legal + What Is Aspartame? Five Surprising Facts You Never Know About This Chemical Sweetener
Did you know that Aspartame was banned by the FDA twice? How is this product legal now? The bittersweet argument over whether Aspartame is safe or not has been going on for a long time.
On one side we have medical evidence that suggests we should avoid using it and on the other side we lean on the FDA’s approval that suggests it is safe.
You would think that something so widely used and so well accepted would have quite the pristine story leading to its acceptance. But that just isn’t the case as you will soon discover after reading this post.
How Aspartame Became Legal
Born out of accident.
In the mid 1960’s a chemist working for the company by the name of of G.D. Searle accidentally created aspartame in a quest to produce a cure for stomach ulcers. Searle puts aspartame through some testing procedures and eventually gets approval by the FDA.
Unfortunately, the testing process was among the worst. Not long after approval, the dangers of aspartame brought G.D. Searle under major fire.
In fact: Aspartame triggered the first criminal investigation of a manufacturer put into place by the FDA in 1977.
In 1980 the FDA banned aspartame from use after having 3 independent scientist study the artificial sweetener. Why?
Because they found that aspartame came with a high danger of inducing brain tumors.
Brain tumors: Bad. Aspartame banned by the FDA.
In January of 1981 Donald Rumsfeld, CEO of Searle, stated in a sales meeting that he was going to “call in his markers” and make a push to get aspartame approved. That month Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President of the United States. His transition team included Rumsfeld who hand picked Dr. Arthur Hull Hayes Jr. to be the new FDA Commissioner.
Within a couple of months, Hayes appointed a 5-person Scientific Commission to review the claims on aspartame. In a 3 – 2 decision, the panel upheld the original ban, stating that the artificial sweetener was unsafe.
Aspartame: Banned twice by the FDA.
Despite the panel’s decision, Hayes later installed a sixth member on the commission who voted in favor of the making aspartame legal. The vote was now deadlocked.
So what happened?
Hayes personally broke the tie in aspartame’s favor. (Keep in mind that Dr. Hayes, a pharmacologist had no previous experience with food additives before becoming the FDA Director.)
On July 18, 1981 Hayes officially approved the use of aspartame as an artificial sweetener in dry goods. (How’s this for a kicker: In 1983 Hayes later left his post at the FDA amid accusations that he was accepting corporate gifts for political favors. BUT, just before leaving office in scandal, Hayes approved the use of aspartame in beverages.)
The icing on the cake: In 1985 Searle was absorbed by Monsanto. Donald Rumsfeld reportedly received a $12 million bonus. And the sad tale of fake food and experimentation on the human race continued onward.