The New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) has confirmed its confidence in the safety of the low-energy sweetener aspartame. The authority said that recent media reports over the safety of the sweetener aspartame may have raised "unnecessary concerns".

The agency has become the latest national food safety authority to declare aspartame - used as a sweetener in soft drinks among other products - as safe. The UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US and the EU's European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have all recently reaffirmed their confidence in the safety of aspartame.

"NZFSA has a role to provide accurate information on the safety of food sold in New Zealand, so people are able to make informed choices about what they eat. Misleading or unsubstantiated claims about a particular food can create fear and quite unnecessary concerns for consumers," says Sandra Daly, NZFSA's deputy chief executive. "Aspartame is probably one of the most studied products on sale today, and there is an extensive body of evidence that tells us it is a safe product that offers consumers a sweet low-calorie option in their diet."

Recent reports had linked aspartame with cancer, but the NZFSA said that these findings are not consistent with the findings of a large number of studies over many years which have been evaluated by leading food safety agencies around the world.

"NZFSA continually assesses the weight of sound, scientific evidence that surrounds the use of all products, including aspartame," Daly said. "We can find no scientific basis for claims that the product is not safe to consume in sensible quantities."

The NZFSA further stated that extensive studies had shown that, even if taken in high doses, the metabolites in aspartame do not accumulate in toxic amounts. An adult would have to consume 14 cans of a sugar-free drink every day before reaching the acceptable daily intake (ADI) of aspartame, the authority said, and they would need to do that every day of their lives before possibly showing any ill-effects.