by James S. Turner
Many health-conscious people believe that avoiding aspartame, found in over 5000 products under brand names such as Equal and NutraSweet, can improve their quality of life. The history of this synthetic sweetener's approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), including a long record of consumer complaints and the agency's demonstrated insensitivity to public concern, suggests they're right.
In October 1980 the Public Board of Inquiry (PBOI) impaneled by the FDA to evaluate aspartame safety found that the chemical caused an unacceptable level of brain tumors in animal testing. Based on this fact, the PBOI ruled that aspartame should not be added to the food supply.
This ruling capped 15 years of regulatory ineptitude, chicanery and deception by the FDA and the Searle drug company, aspartame's discoverer and manufacturer (acquired by Monsanto in 1985), and kicked off another two decades of maneuvering, manipulating and dissembling by FDA, Searle and Monsanto.