A Tale of Two Sweeteners – Stevia and Aspartame
A Tale of Two Sweeteners – Stevia and Aspartame – The Facts
There is a secret war going on in this country of which most consumers are unaware. It is a David versus Goliath type action between the FDA-supported giants of the artificial sweetener industry versus those manufacturers who want their market share of the profits and retail shelf space by offering the public a safe, natural alternative to those synthetic sweeteners produced in a chemist’s lab. It is about money and power – greed and avorice.
At stake are billions of dollars spent by health-conscious American consumers, most of whom admirably wish to avoid as many things “chemical” and “artificial” in their food supply – and that of their children – as possible. Two key warriors in this bitter battle are: Product A [Stevia] and Product B [Aspartame].
Product A [Stevia]:
[Stevia rebaudiana Bertoli]
Shoved into the “Dietary Supplement” category by the FDA in 1994 when DSHEA [Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act] went into effect, stevia remains in a sort of “halfway house” while the FDA struggles to keep it off the market as a sweetener. It has been used for centuries in the rest of the world as a low-calorie, no adverse reactions reported – sweet herb. It can be found in stores as crushed leaves, a dark liquid, a clear liquid or a fluffy white powder. Unlike aspartame, stevia is safe to cook with. But, without guidance on ratios and conversions – the average consumer is at a loss to know how to use it. Stevia is lots less expensive to use than its synthetic counterparts. More and more consumers are rejecting the pharmaceutical “versions of sugar” and are searching for the ideal “healthy” sweetener. This makes Product A [stevia] a very real threat to Product B [aspartame].
FDA points to only two questionable studies as their absolute proof stevia is not safe. The first, ineptly done by a graduate student in South America, says it may have [are you ready for this?] a mild contraceptive property. The other, published in 1988 in a Brazilian pharmacological journal, was extremely sloppy science and no one but the FDA gives it any credence whatsoever. On the offchance the public does not share FDA’s “concern” about stevia’s possible contraceptive qualities, they have come up with some strictly “hearsay” evidence, which they’ve never seen, through the South American “grapevine” that stevia might be unsafe for having a hypothetical hypoglycemic effect on some individuals. These are extremely flimsy “straws” the FDA is grasping to support their ban on stevia as a sweetener.
FDA claims no petitions have been filed by product manufacturers seeking to use stevia as a Generally Recognized as Safe [or GRAS] ingredient in their product.
What they really mean is the FDA has never accepted a petition filed by a food or beverage manufacturer seeking to use stevia as a sweetener in their product. Several, including Lipton have filed petitions only to be denied acceptance for some FDA-invented “technical error.”
FDA ignores the overwhelming evidence of its benign and beneficial character. Usage in the rest of the world for centuries with no reported ill affects, counts for nothing in the closed “regulatory mind.”
FDA even went so far as to attack one importer and distributor of stevia for perceived “violations” of the rules and regulations governing dietary supplements. The crime? Three books were being distributed by Stevita Co. of Arlington, Texas [owners of the Brazilian patent on stevia manufacturing] which described the history and usage of the sweet herb, stevia.
Not only was the business-owner ordered to destroy his inventory of books – he was also forced to remove all links to other sites on his internet website. A clear violation of First Amendment rights by the FDA?
Could all this controversy over stevia be related to FDA’s defensive attitude over aspartame?
Monsanto has bought and put on hold the U.S. patent on stevia manufacturing. While investigating the FDA banning of books at Stevita Company in Arlington, Texas, Aspartame Consumer Safety Network founder, Mary Nash Stoddard, discovered that Monsanto’s NutraSweet Company, manufacturers of NutraSweet and Neotame, hold Patent #435889 – NDN #0190522-9510-4, dated: Oct. 12, 1982, related to manufacturing of a stevia sweetener in the U.S. From earlier research, Stoddard knew stevia to be a healthy, low cost, logical alternative to aspartame and neotame. The manufacturers of the neurotoxic sweeteners can make more profits from producing the unhealthy sweeteners, and as long as they hold the patent, no one can produce a stevia sweetener in this country. Besides, the FDA, with Monsanto’s blessing, will not approve stevia for use as a sweetener, so that it might be used in children’s medications, chewing gums, soft drinks, etc. as a low-calorie sweetening agent instead of aspartame or neotame.
With the release of the new studies from Italy by the Ramazinni Foundation, showing aspartame is capable of causing multiple forms of cancers, including lymphoma and leukemia, even in normal doses – seeing to it that stevia gains FDA approval as a legal, generally recognized as safe sweetener is needed more urgently than ever.
Product B [Aspartame]:
[aka NutraSweet/Equal/Natrataste, etc.]
FDA continues to fiercly support Monsanto’s artificial sweeteners aspartame [aka NutraSweet/Equal]and the new artificial sweetener, neotame, based solely on industry-sponsored tests showing “safety.” And, when neotame was approved in 2002, by FDA, it was done with absolutely no requirements that it had to be listed on the ingredient label.
FDA’s official position is: absolutely nothing is wrong or harmful about aspartame or neotame, despite the undisputed fact that approximately 80% of all adverse reaction complaints to FDA are aspartame related. Unlike pharmaceuticals – serious adverse reactions to a food additive are not required by law to be reported by physicians. FDA lists over 92 symptoms consumers have tied to aspartame consumption – including deaths. Reports show that when individuals get off of aspartame, their symptoms usually go away.
“Junk Science” or worse was used by G.D. Searle to gain approval for aspartame in the first place as a tabletop sweetener in 1981 & 1983 for aquaeous solution [soft drinks]. Some FDA toxicologists even went as far as to show the tests were “falsified” to get aspartame approved in the first place. Aspartame was first FDA-approved in 1974, but that approval was rescinded before it could get to market because of concerns about one of the breakdown products, DKP causing brain tumors in the laboratory animals. At a Washington D.C. News Conference, November, 1997, John Olney, M.D., noted brain researcher presented his compelling findings of a 10% increase in brain tumors since the advent of aspartame on the market.
Further troubling to many independent scientists is the fact that virtually all the studies showing harm are “corporate neutral” as one aspartame researcher put it. Many studies are available to show harm caused by aspartame’s toxic breakdown products: methanol – formaldehyde – formic acid and diketopiperazine. Tens of thousands of consumers and others have reported serious adverse reactions to the FDA and consumer advocacy organizations collecting reports such as the Dallas-based Aspartame Consumer Safety Network.
Woodrow Monte, R.D., Ph.D., a former director of the Arizona State University Food Sciences and Nutrition Laboratory, is uncomfortable with the methanol content of aspartame. In a 1986 interview, Monte called aspartame “a crime against humanity.” “Humans are 100 times more sensitive to methanol than animals. When you ingest aspartame, it breaks down into methanol within one hour of ingestion. Methanol forms as soon as aspartame goes into solution and increases the longer it is in solution.” according to Monte. Because heat speeds the breakdown of aspartame into methanol, if aspartame is added to coffee or tea at 80 degrees C (145 degrees F), one half of the amount breaks down into methanol in 10 minutes, according to Monte. This raises serious concern about ASPARTAME ‘S 1993 approval for use in baked goods and other heated products, like hot cocoa and tea. Although aspartame came about as the result of a search for a drug, and its compounds were the basis for a potential prescription medication, the petition for approval of NutraSweet was based on the premise that it was a food additive. The FDA followed its precedent of permitting manufacturers to conduct their own product safety research.
Monte feels that aspartame was mislabelled from the beginning. “aspartame is a drug, not a food additive,” he said. “One hundred million people, from little babies to the elderly, are consuming this stuff in megadoses, more than they ever would if it were labelled a drug.” [Informed Consent May/June ‘94]
Conclusion: FDA’s ability to evaluate any substance objectively has been called into question by consumers and independent researchers alike. Senator Metzenbaum called FDA officials mere “Handmaidens to Industry” in the 1987 Senate Hearings on the Safety of aspartame. Corporate megabucks influence and determine the actions of that government agency created to protect the consumer from harm. Corporations routinely “cover themselves” by donating millions to organizations such as: American Dietetic Association, American Diabetic Foundation and others. FDA officials routinely hop with jumping-bean-like ease from government to private industry and back.
Outspoken critcs of this government agency are suggesting – not that we rid ourselves of a Food and Drug Administration – only that we rid ourselves of the present “corrupted” Food and Drug Administration thus changing the current FDA focus of protecting the profits of the giants of industry to one of protecting the American public, which it is charged to serve.
Who will win the Sweetener Wars? It’s up to the consuming public. Tell everyone you know. Let your grocer know you want a healthy choice when it comes to sweeteners. Take aspartame-sweetened items back to the store to exchange for something healthy. One person can make a difference. Try the sweet taste of stevia – many say it’s the safe alternative to the unhealthy chemical sweeteners.
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Mary Nash Stoddard: Journalist/Expert Witness/Award-Winning Consumer Advocate/ News Anchor and Talk Show Host/Former Appointed Judge for State of Texas/Food Safety Consultant and Lecturer at leading Universities/President’s Council on Food Safety
Following the brain tumor death of her 42 year old husband, in 1985, Stoddard suffered a life threatening illness [eosinophilia-myalgia] she and her doctor attributed to her consumption of aspartame. She had given up her freelance work with Hollywood film producers in 1984, to devote time helping her husband, Mike, through radiation and chemotherapy treatments. After he died, she sought treatment for serious neurological and physical symptoms. With her doctor’s blessing, she gave up using the artificial sweetener, aspartame and gradually began to improve. Using her skills as a journalist, Stoddard began to investigate and found others with similar stories. July, 1987, the Dallas papers ran a front page story on Stoddard’s organization – Aspartame Consumer Safety Network, which she cofounded with successful Washington Consumer Advocate, James S. Turner, Esquire..
Over two decades, Stoddard has worked with thousands of people who believe they, or a loved one, have been harmed by the artificial sweetener, aspartame. Respected researchers and health care professionals work with ACSN to address this health issue. Stoddard has traveled to three countries as an invited keynote speaker, and spends thousands of hours giving interviews all over the world, to network and independent television news producers, radio talk show hosts, reporters for newspapers, wire services, and writers for dozens of magazines.
In 1987, Stoddard was among the experts giving testimony at a Senate Hearing on the safety of aspartame. In 1998 and 1999, Stoddard was a select member of the President’s Council on Food Safety. Stoddard and Turner are the only consumer advocates who have qualified in court as Expert Medical Witnesses on aspartame. A career highlight was being asked by the Mexican Government to be the keynote speaker at their Conference on Sweeteners in 1998. Although she is a popular lecturer at many colleges and universities, the ultimate honor came when she was engaged to teach a course at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, in Dallas, January, 1997.
In 1987, Stoddard initiated a worldwide Pilot’s Hotline for reporting adverse reactions to aspartame, after being asked by an F-16 pilot she met at the Senate Hearing in Washington, to address the issue of flying safety and aspartame ingestion. Hundreds of calls have now been registered on behalf of the international flying community.
ASPARTAME / STEVIA
FDA RAID & BOOK BANNING ORDER
CHRONOLOGY OF EVENTS
Stevita Co. – Arlington Texas
Imported first shipment of Stevia spoonful (blend of stevioside and maltodextrin) with registered trade name of STEVIASWEET. FDA office in Dallas detained the shipment of approximately 3,000 jars saying that we could not use the trade name STEVIASWEET because the word SWEET on the name implied that stevia could be used as a sugar substitute. Changed the labels (at American Airlines warehouse) to STEVITA brand. Products with new labels released.
Started importing Stevita chocolate flavored and Stevita cappuccino flavored. First shipments passed through customs with no problems. Around October, 1997, a shipment of Stevita cappuccino flavored was detained by FDA. They claimed we were selling coffee instead of Stevia. We submitted a new label (MAGIC) that removed the word coffee. After changing all the labels (about 5,000) the shipment was released.
November 12, 1997
FDA inspectors, Martha Baldwin and Pauline Logan inspected Stevita facilities and took samples of the books and some scientific literature.
March 6, 1998
Received warning letter from FDA saying the presence of literature, including the information on our website, was rendering the stevia products “adulterated.” Stevita Co. was given 5 days to reply. James Turner’s office (Swanken & Turner lawfirm) requested a 15 day extension.
March 26, 1998
James Turner’s office submitted an answer to the Warning Letter from FDA, agreeing with all the requests, with the exception of the destruction of the books and cessation of Stevita product sales.
April 1, 1998
Two shipments that had been detained by FDA had labels approved by FDA in Washington D.C.. However, Mr. James R. LaHar of the Dallas District office orders the shipments to continue being put on hold, because in his opinion, our product is now contaminated by current literature already in circulation.
April 27, 1998
FDA Inspector, Martha Baldwin inspected Stevita’s facilities and collected labels and documents. She also took an inventory of Stevita Co.’s products. In desperation to get the shipments released by FDA, Oscar Rodes told Stevita Co. attorney, James Turner to inform FDA that as of May 13 we were ceasing distribution of all the books.
May 19, 1998 (9:00 AM)
A fax was received from James R. LaHar, Compliance Officer in the Dallas District Office of FDA, stating that “investigators from his office were coming to Stevita’s facilities to witness destruction of the literature and books.
May 19, 1998 (11:30 AM)
FDA inspectors, Pauline Logan and Margarito Uribe walked into the office. They proceeded to take inventory of all products and literature. Oscar Rodes believed they were sent by Mr. LaHar to witness destruction of all the books. Stevita Co. employees videotaped most of the “inspection” – including the part when one of the inspectors is “marking” the cookbooks (Cooking With Stevia by James Kirkland) for destruction.
May 20, 1998
Both inspectors return to Stevita’s facilities for more inspection and counting of inventory.
May 22, 1998
Both inspectors arrive again at Stevita Co. at 3/30 PM – asking Oscar Rodes to sign some typewritten affidavits. They also told me they wanted to “look around.”
June 6, 1998
Cookbook author, James Kirkland presented his “banned book” at a Town Hall Meeting in Arlington Texas, conducted by Congressman, Joe Barton (Chairman of Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee in Washington) who oversees the Food and Drug Administration. Media covered the event and that evening the CBS TV News affiliate in Dallas aired a story showing the “banned books” and telling the Stevita Co. story of harassment by FDA. This news segment was picked up by other CBS affiliates and aired around the U.S..
Mary Nash Stoddard and James Turner, Esq., founders of Aspartame Safety Consumer Network were instrumental in getting the book ban and the embargo of stevia products lifted through the legal system and placement of numerous stories in the national media spotlighting this issue.
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