The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has said that a request by the European Commission for a re-evaluation of the safety of aspartame is not motivated by fresh scientific concerns.

The Commission's request comes despite the fact that the EFSA reviewed the latest studies on aspartame last month and has scheduled a full evaluation for 2020. However, the Commission announced yesterday (26 May) that it has ordered the EU's food safety watchdog to reinvestigate the controversial sweetener.

Aspartame is used widely in low-calorie drinks and food and has been dogged by health concerns since its emergence the 1980s. However, food and drink firms have vehemently denied that the sweetener poses a health risk to consumers.

"When we evaluated scientific studies on aspartame recently, we didn't see anything glaring that would lead us to believe people should change their daily intake," said an EFSA spokesperson.

The latest EFSA-reviewed studies assessed links between aspartame, cancer and pre-term births and its results did not flag up problems justifying a review of the sweetener's safety, the spokesperson said. "The re-evaluation is not originating from a scientific point of view, in light of this," she added.

The European Commission admitted to just-drinks' sister site, just-food, that political considerations were a motivation.

A spokesman said the Commission's request followed "concerns raised by some representatives of the European Parliament as well as the European Consumers Organisation BEUC".

Last month, the European Parliament called for mandatory warning labels for pregnant women on all products containing aspartame.

Nevertheless, the EFSA will comply with the request. "Safety can't be defined in one way," a spokesperson said. "There are many different aspects, so we will carry this review out."