“Dead rats don’t lie,” says food safety campaigner, Chris Wheeler, over the controversy surrounding the artificial sweetener, aspartame, used widely in pharmaceuticals and diet products. “Before the so-called ‘scientist’ critics supporting sweetener safety get too carried away condemning the Italian rat studies demonstrating aspartame’s cancer-causing characteristics, on the basis that they never got to meet the rats, the public needs to know just who’s kidding who.
Dr Magnuson, a recent corporate-sponsored visitor, and her ilk, are happy to use rat studies as a gold standard to ‘prove’ chemical food additive safety – when it suits them – but when a comprehensive series of studies come out from a prestigious, non-industry aligned research institute like Italy’s Ramazzini Institute showing dangers in aspartame, then these food industry apologists quibble over whether the rats used in the study were sufficiently upper class or went to the right school.
“Dr. Soffritti, the award-winning scientist heading the Italian rat studies on aspartame’s cancer-causing potential, used the same breed of rats used widely by the food industry itself to test for toxicity. The fact that Coca Cola and Wrigley’s and the rest of the powerful international corporates backing aspartame don’t like facing is that the Ramazzini Institute’s rats died from cancer in unusually large numbers when fed steady diets including aspartame, within the human daily intake range.
“Dead rats don’t lie. The rats died because they ate aspartame. Unlike Dr Magnuson and Professor John Birkbeck of Massey University – who, we would note in passing is the former head of the industry-supported NZ Nutrition Foundation – the rats at no stage in their short careers ever received funding, directly or indirectly, from Coca Cola, Wrigley’s or any other of the international corporates using aspartame in their products. The sacrifice these rats made in the cause of human health should not be ignored.
“Producing carpetbag scientists out of the woodwork to defend unnecessary chemical additions to the diet is a sort of crude witchdoctor ritual used by the food and beverage industry to trick us natives down in the street into believing junk food is manna from heaven. This cargo cult type of argument needs to be seen in its true light. The fact is pretty-well 95 percent of the chemicals added by industry to our daily diet have nothing to do with human health or nutrition. They are simply put there to make rubbish “food” and junk beverages last forever and make it possible for human beings to consume them without vomiting.
All the best science, coming from independent scientists not paid by the food industry, demonstrates hazards from nerve and muscle damage to cancer and significant eye damage from using diet preparations including aspartame.
New Zealand’s Abby Cormack isn’t the only victim of aspartame by a long shot. The problem is that our medical profession have bought into the NZ Food Safety Authority’s specious arguments that aspartame is safe, based on industry data and the fact that the international regulatory scene from the US FDA to the United Nation’s Codex Alimentarius is stacked with regulatory scientists who owe their main sources of income to the additive-supplying industries they regulate. These days there’s no such thing as an ‘independent’ food regulator. NZ doctors simply fail to factor aspartame in as a possible cause of the weird symptoms they are increasingly seeing pass through their consulting rooms. They need to access the more than 200 independent studies in the international medical press suggesting significant health problems with aspartame product use.
Unfortunately, the average New Zealand food scientist, toxicologist, dietician or nutritionist (sic) owes their professional career to keeping a favourable profile with major international corporations like Coca Cola. To imagine that a New Zealand professional in the human dietary field is going to come out with significant criticisms of an identified nerve toxin like the synthetic sweetener, aspartame, is like expecting Fonterra to properly police a Chinese subsidiary whose language and culture they clearly don’t understand.
New Zealanders are babes in the wood in the hands of major international corporates and the games they play over food safety. It’s indicative of the problems the New Zealand public have in believing or trusting our own food regulators, when you realise that the only data the regulators ever examine comes from the very industries our regulators are supposed to be policing. Under those circumstances it’s a case of the same problem the computer industry has always acknowledged – if the incoming data is garbage, then the outgoing data will also be garbage. What we have seen with Coca Cola’s recent defence of its use of aspartame in its diet products is the manner in which so-called “science” can be misused to defend the indefensible.
“The fact is, minority organisations like our own NZ Safe Food Campaign simply don’t have the resources to defend the NZ public against the consequences of junk science. What we need is a food safety regulatory environment where the public interest is the first priority and not the defence of powerful international food corporate interests.
“Fonterra’s contaminated milk scandal should be a wake-up call to us all over how easily food corporate interests take priority over public safety.”
Chris Wheeler is the Auckland representative of the NZ Safe Food Campaign and former president of the Soil & Health Association of NZ Inc, New Zealand’s oldest lobbying group over health and food safety issues.