1981: FDA Oks Sweetener It Calls "Safer" Than Saccharin: Aspartame

Air Date: 07/15/1981
Source:
NBC Nightly News
Creator:
Roger Mudd, Robert Hager
Air/Publish Date:
07/15/1981
Event Date:
07/15/1981
Resource Type:
News Report
Copyright:
NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
Copyright Date:
1981
Clip Length:
00:01:49

In 1981, the FDA announces approval of an artificial sweetener, aspartame, it believes is "safer" than saccharin. In 1977, the FDA had recommended a ban on saccharin that was overturned by Congress later that year. In 1991, the FDA formally withdrew its proposal to ban saccharin. The warning label was removed from saccharin and products containing it in 1996.

1981: FDA Oks Sweetener It Calls "Safer" Than Saccharin: Aspartame

ROGER MUDD (anchor):

No decision by the Food and Drug Administration has been more politically unpopular than its attempt last year to ban the sale of saccharin. Congress prevented that, but today the FDA approved as safe a different low-calorie sweetener. Robert Hager reports.

ROBERT HAGER (reporting):

The new product, which has been underdevelopment for years, is called aspartame, an alternative to saccharin, which the FDA still believes is unsafe and which must carry a warning label. FDA Commission Arthur Hull Hayes.

DR. ARTHUR HULL HAYES (FDA Commissioner): Our view on saccharin is that because it causes cancer in animals that we should ban it. We proposed such a ban and congress overturned that with a moratorium. This compound we feel does not cause cancer in animals.

HAGER: You feel then it’s safer than saccharin.

HAYES: On that basis, yes.

HAGER: Aspartame will marked by G.D. Searle under the brand name Equal in boxes or packets of powder or as tablets. The FDA also approved it for manufacturers to use it in instant powdered drinks or cereals or sugarless gum. But not for sodas yet; the company will apply shortly for that permission. Also aspartame can’t be used for cooking or baking because that lessens its sweetness. Approval of aspartame, which is made by combining amino acids like those found naturally in meat or cheese have been bogged down in eight years of debate over data supporting its safety. There were questions whether it might cause brain damage and a board of inquiry recently suggested more animal tests for cancer.

But the Food and Drug Administration said today that based on the test data those are not reasonable fears and aspartame is expected to reach food stores sometime this coming winter. Robert Hager, NBC News, Washington.

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