The Food and Drug Administration has moved to calm call for a fresh review of the sweetener aspartame, despite a new study suggesting the sweetener may cause cancer.

Last week, Italian researchers published a new study showing aspartame, the sweetener widely used in soft drinks, could be linked to leukemia, lymphoma and breast cancer. A report from Reuters said that the researchers tested aspartame in over 4,000 rats, which they allowed to live until they died naturally. Their study showed a lifetime of eating high doses of the sweetener raised the likelihood of several types of cancer.

A spokesperson from the FDA said: ""The conclusions … are not consistent with those from the large number of studies on aspartame that have been evaluated by FDA, including five previously conducted negative chronic carcinogenicity studies. At this time, FDA finds no reason to alter its previous conclusion that aspartame is safe as a general purpose sweetener in food."

Center for Science in the Public Interest executive director Michael Jacobson told the news service: "This is the second study by the same lab showing that aspartame causes cancer in rats." Jacobson added: "People shouldn't panic, but they should stop buying beverages and foods containing aspartame."