- ICELAND, the grocer, will
this week that it is banning aspartame, the artificial sweetener
known as NutraSweet, from its own-label foods.
- The move follows growing
concern among consumers about
a possible link between the sweetener and
brain tumours. Aspartame is consumed
by 250m people worldwide and has
been used in low-calorie food and drinks
such as Diet Coke for 20
in recent years there have been increasing fears
about possible health
risks. The compound has been linked to multiple sclerosis
and even Gulf
- These worries, spread on the internet, are hotly disputed
NutraSweet's owner, Monsanto, the GM (genetically modified) food
- Iceland will become the first national grocers' chain
a ban and the move will be closely watched by its larger rivals.
Iceland is trying to reposition itself as a "green" grocer and
has already banned other artificial colours and flavourings from its own
- Malcolm Walker, Iceland's chairman, was the first grocer
GM foods and coined the term "Frankenstein foods". The
will spark a full- scale row between the grocery chain and
- A NutraSweet spokeswoman said: "Iceland is spreading
when it should be reassuring customers. The web has become a real
problem [and ] there is a lot of misinformation about."
- An Iceland executive
said that the company will tell
staff tomorrow that it will no longer
supply food with aspartame under
its own label and will be switching to
other artificial sweeteners. The
company will continue to sell branded
products that contain NutraSweet
such as Diet Coke.
- The grocer's
executives recently held talks with the
Association, which represents the multi-billion-pound
despite being given assurances that NutraSweet was perfectly
Iceland decided to impose a ban.
- King's College, London, is
conducting a three-year study
to establish whether there is a link
between aspartame and brain tumours.
Reports in America have found
conflicting evidence of a link. There, 20
billion cans of soft drink
are consumed each year, most containing NutraSweet.
- Bill Wadsworth, Iceland's
technical director,said a
full-scale ban was being considered. "We
are taking the matter seriously
because of the weight of customer
pressure we are coming under."
- Monsanto is in the process of
selling its sweetener division.
Protests from consumers and
environmental groups in Europe - many debating
the issue on the
internet - have hurt the company's growth prospects and
market value has plummeted.
- Wadsworth said: "Clearly the internet is playing
a major role bringing this debate to public attention."