Misinformation From
Team NutraSweet (Monsanto)
About Methanol
In Aspartame
Question from Steve Henwood to Monsanto:

Question from Steve Henwood to Monsanto:
Dear Jeff,
You inspired me to write to Monsanto about Nutrasweet, and I thought you'd be interested in their response. They are claiming that methanol occurs naturally in many foods and so is, therefore, not a problem. Can that be true? I was not aware that methanol, which as you know, is wood alcohol, occurs in food. Are they misinformed? Here is their response:
(We forwarded the Monsanto Response to Betty Martini of 'Mission Possible' at
From Betty Martini < 11-9-99
Dear Jeff: Thank you for sending me this post from Steve Henwood and his note from the NutraSweet team regarding the methanol in aspartame. We are use to Monsanto's misinformation, and I'm delighted to give you the real facts.
Nutrasweet's response to Steve Henwood's question:
In a message dated 11/3/99 9:32:52 AM, writes:
"Aspartame is composed of two amino acids, aspartic acid and the methyl ester of phenylalanine. It is completely and quickly metabolized to its two amino acids (aspartic acid and phenylalanine) and methanol through normal pathways. The body treats aspartame the same way it handles other foods, such as bananas, milk and hamburgers. The methanol is identical to that which we consume in much larger concentrations in fruits, vegetables and their juices, for instance. It is part of the normal diet. The amount of methanol produced is approximately 10% by weight. The body then converts methanol to formaldehyde and then to a metabolite called formate. Formate is then quickly eliminated by the body in the form of carbon dioxide and water.
"The amounts produced in metabolism are small, and are no greater than the methanol produced by the metabolism of many fruits and vegetables. For comparison's sake the amount of methanol resulting from drinking a 12 ounce can of soda sweetened with aspartame is less than obtained from drinking an 8 ounce glass of grape juice.
Diet Soda 60 mg. methanol/liter Fruit Juice 140 mg. methanol/liter
"We will also send additional information of which you can choose the studies listed in the reference section that would be of help."..
(signed) Team NutraSweet (Monsanto)
Betty Martini's comments:
Now for the real facts: This is incomplete and inaccurate information. Real world aspartame containing products contain more than just methanol, aspartic acid and phenylalanine. These products also contain breakdown products of aspartame such as beta-aspartame (Lawrence l987, Stamp l989b) and aspartylphenylalanine diketopiperazine (DKP) (Tsang l985).
Because the amino acids are not bound in proteins, they are absorbed quickly and spike the plasma aspartic acid and phenylalanine to high levels. Even the industry researchers admit that these amino acids are metabolized differently than those found in foods (Stegink l987a, Stegink l987b). Methanol is found in *available form" in much greater quantities in aspartame than in real foods (Monte l984). Methanol taken orally is extremely toxic to humans. Even though a small amount is found in the body, as little as a can of diet soda can spike the plasma methanol levels significantly (Davoli l986).
Davoli, E., et al.., l986. "Serum Methanol Concentrations in Rats and in Men After a Single Dose of Aspartame." Food and Chemical Toxicology, Volume 24, No. 3, page 187-189.
Lawrence, J. F., J. R. Iyengar, l987. "Liquid Chromatographic Determination of Beta-Aspartame in Diet Soft Drinks, Beverage Powders and Pudding Mixes," Journal of Chromatography, Volume 404, page 261-266.
Monte, Woodrow C. l984. "Aspartame: Methanol and the Public Health," Journal of Applied Nutrition, Volume 36, NO. 1, page 42-54.
Stamp, Jeffrey A. Theodore P. Labuza, l989a. "An Ion-Pair High Performance Liquid Chromatographic Method for the Determination of Aspartame and its Decomposition Products," Journal of Food Science, volume 54, NO. 4, pg. 1043-1046.
Stegink, Lewis D., et al. l987a "Plasma Amino Acid Concentrations in Normal Adults Administered Aspartame in Capsules or solution: Lack of Bioequivalence," Metabolism, Volume 36, NO. 5, page 507-512.
Stegink, Lewis D., et al., l987b. "Plasma Amino Acid Concentrations in Normal Adults Ingesting Aspartame and Monosodium L-Glutamate as Part of a Soup/Beverage Meal," Metabolism, Volume 36, No. 11, page 1073-1079.
Tsang, Wing-Sum, et al., l985. "Determination of Aspartame and Its Breakdown Products in Soft Drinks by Reverse-Phase Chromatography with UV Detection." Journal Agriculture and Food Chemistry, Vol 33, No. 4, page 734-738
Because of Steve's interest in the methanol in aspartame, I would suggest reading Dr. Monte's excellent journal article in full and you will find this at You might want to append it to this information for posting as we have Dr. Monte's permission.
Anyone calling the FDA (who parrot's Monsanto misinformation in the IFIC brochure they send out) or Monsanto continually get this brainwashing "there is more methanol in fruit juice than in aspartame". As brought out in Dr. Monte's journal article on methanol on page 1:
"Ethanol, the classic antidote for methanol toxicity, is found in natural food sources of methanol at concentrations 5 to 500,000 times that of the toxin. Ethanol inhibits metabolism of methanol and allows the body time for clearance of the toxin through the lungs and kidneys."
There is no ethanol in aspartame! To really understand the seriousness of the methanol in aspartame I will quote from Dr. H. J. Roberts book ASPARTAME (NUTRASWEET) IS IT SAFE? He says:
"Methanol is synonymous with wood alcohol, a deadly poison even when consumed in relatively modest amounts. Even in lesser quantities, methanol is potentially dangerous because the body is unable to detoxify it (unlike the ethyl alcohol found in whiskey, beer and wine, which is readily detoxified and excreted from the body). Methanol can cause serious tissue damage- especially blindness - and even death. Rarely found in nature as its "free" form, methyl alcohol is usually derived or produced from other substances. It made headlines when 25 persons in Italy died after drinking table wine containing 5.7 per cent methanol. In one series of patients with methyl alcohol poisoning (Bennett l952) the lowest fatal dose was three teaspoons of 40% methanol.
As a known poison, it is logical to consider the possible role of methyl alcohol in reactions to aspartame containing products. This applies especially to eye and neuropsychiatric complaints. Taking aspartame into the body yields approximately ten percent methanol by weight (Federal Register February 22, l984 pp 6672-6682). The actual methanol composition of the aspartame molecules is 32/394 or 10.0%. The following approximations are provided for comparative purposes.
* 19 gm aspartame, the equivalent of one teaspoon sugar yields 1.9 gm methanol. * One liter of most aspartame sweetened soft drinks contain about 55 mg. methanol. * Methanol concentrations in aspartame-sweetened beverages increase with heating and during prolonged storage. * The amount of methanol ingested by heavy consumers of aspartame products could readily exceed 250 mg. daily (Monte l984). This is 32 times the limit of consumption recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). * Abuse doses (100 mg. aspartame/kg body weight, or more) results in significant elevations of blood methanol concentrations in normal subjects (Stegink l984). Moreover, the level remains detectable for eight or more hours. * Monte (l984) calculated that one-hundredth the fatal level (a standard criterion for safety used by the FDA) translates into only two 12 ounce cans.
Methyl alcohol appears to be the first component of aspartame released within the upper small intestine. Its absorption is rapid. Man is highly vulnerable to methanol toxicity because of the absence of two enzymes required to metabolize it (Roe l982). Its rate of oxidation (or breakdown) is only one-seventh that of customary ethyl alcohol (ethanol).
The body attempts to detoxify methanol by oxidizing it to formaldehyde, then to formate or formic acid, and ultimately to carbon dioxide which is blown off in the breath. Formate itself may contribute to toxicity - most notably as metabolic acidosis and eye damage.
The rate of methanol elimination in humans is five times slower than for a similar amount of ethyl alcohol (Forney l968). Accordingly, the daily ingestion of "individually innocuous amounts of methyl alcohol" could result in eventual poisonous effects."
Methanol interacts with other drugs. Used together, the interactions between methanol and chemical compounds related to ethyl alcohol might have clinical significance (Posner l975). These could include the oral (sulfonylurea) drugs used in treating diabetic patients, metronidazole (an anti-bacterial agent) and allopurinol (a standard drug used for managing out). The consumption of methyl alcohol in the form of aspartame products theoretically may harm alcoholic patients being maintained on disulfiram. Antabuse, the trade name drug, is currently being taken by an estimated 400,000 persons in the US while at least as many use less expensive generic brands.
Methanol and formaldehyde concentrations could rise in patients receiving maintenance disulfiram who are excessive consumers of aspartame products due to (1) a further slowing of methyl alcohol degradation, and (2) inhibition of the enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase.
*Koivusalo (l958) reported that the rate of methanol elimination in rabbits was considerably delayed by disulfiram. Methanol was still detectable in the blood 100 hours after the smallest administered dose. *Way and Hausman (l950) noted more rapid toxicity from oral methanol in rats and rabbits after prior disulfiram administration.
The symptoms and signs of methanol toxicity in man are diverse. Dr. Woodrow Monte (l984), Director of the Food Science and Nutrition Laboratory at Arizona State University, reviewed the methyl alcohol syndrome. Its symptoms and sign need not correlate with blood concentration of methanol.
The disorders caused by methyl alcohol are listed below because of their possible relevance to complaints encountered among certain reactors to aspartame products. Of course, the concept of methanol as a "cumulative poison" have been denied or criticized by representatives of the manufacturer (Sturtevant l985).
Eye Damage: Blindness caused by methanol has been attributed to the toxic, effects of its breakdown products, formaldehyde and/or formic acid on retinal cells. Methanol produces swelling of the optic disc (Hayreh 1977) and degeneration of retinal ganglion cells (Baumbach l977) in monkeys.
Brain Involvement:
CT scans of the brain in patients with methanol poisoning have revealed areas of presumed local death or infarction (McLean l980). Swartz l981). Accordingly, a review of some observations concerning brain swelling (edema), slowing of blood in its vessels (vascular stasis) and altered cerebral function after experimental methanol exposure is germane.
* A marked reduction of both cerebral blood flow and cerebral oxygen consumption has been documented during methanol poisoning. * Brain swelling occurs in both humans and experimental animals (Menne 1938, Bennett l953, Erlanson l965, Rao l977). * Significant alterations of brain water, sodium and potassium with concomitant vascular stasis, are found after methanol administration - both acute and chronic - in male rabbits and monkeys (Rao l977). Furthermore, the progressive rise of blood methanol levels after the third week suggests partial inhibition of methanol degradation. * Survivors of severe methanol intoxication have developed Parkinsonism, dementia and other neurologic abnormalities ... as well as blindness. (McLean l980).
Involvement of the Peripheral Nerves (Neuropathy)
Neuropathic symptoms from methanol include numbness "pins and needles" sensations (paresthesias), and shooting pains. They are particularly evident after chronic exposure to methanol.
Inflammation of the pancreas (Pancreatitis).
Pancreatitis has been reported in methanol poisoning (Bennett l952). Pancreatitis may have produced the severe abdominal pain in some aspartame reactors in the present series. (patients seen by Dr. Roberts).
Inflammation of the Heart Muscle (Cardiomyopathy).
Cardiac changes have been found in patients with methanol poisoning. The relatively frequent complaints of palpitations, rapid heart action and atypical chest pain among aspartame reactors may be pertinent.
Metabolic Acidosis:
Methanol characteristically causes metabolic acidosis. In this severe biochemical state, excessive acids in the body can result in respiratory failure and death. (diabetic acidosis is another type of metabolic acidosis).
Clinical acidosis might be induced after large amounts of aspartame are ingested, especially by children. Dr. Roberts talks about a London physician who wrote him about his 9 year old daughter who had been given aspartame containing cola for recurrent abdominal pain.
" all, she probably drank about 1.5 liters over a 24 hour period together with eating a few slices of toast in the same 24 hours. The following morning she was found semi-conscious, confused, and had a metabolic ketoacidosis but a normal blood sugar on admission to the hospital. Tests for metabolic poisons such as aspirin were negative. Fortunately, rehydration restored her to normal within 4-5 hours biochemically together with restoration to normal levels of consciousness. I thought at the time that (the diet cola) could be responsible but could not find any evidence to support this ..the (company) in the UK (was) very defensive about the effects of aspartame and denied any knowledge of adverse effects of aspartame."
This information has come from Dr. Roberts book that was written in l990. He has now declared Aspartame Disease a world epidemic and has completed for publishing a medical text on the world plague which will soon be available for the consumer public.
Dr. Roberts does cover in detail this brainwashing about more methanol in fruit juice. I'll quote a bit more so you will understand how far they go to indoctrinate the public with misinformation. Searle originally manufactured aspartame and Monsanto bought them in l985. They fund trade organizations and write their material and this is a further way they get their propaganda into the hands of consumers and target physicians for misinformation.
"The FDA and the council on Scientific Affairs of the American Medical Association (l985) rationalize the safety of methanol in aspartame products with statements such as "fruits and vegetables are also sources of dietary methanol" and "dietary methanol also arises from fresh fruits and vegetables" (Federal Register Vol. 48, NO. 132, July 8, l983, p. 31380). The FDA Talk Paper (January 24, l984) further asserted: "FDA said that no safety issues appeared to be involved, there being more methanol in many fruit juices than in long-stored aspartame products, including carbonated beverages." Yet, Monte (l984) estimated the average daily intake of methyl alcohol from natural sources at less than 10 mg.
In giving final approval for the addition of aspartame to carbonated beverages and carbonated beverage syrup bases (Federal Register February 22, l984, pp 6672-6682), the FDA stated:
"The agency does not believe that methanol exposure equivalent to 10 per cent of the aspartame dose is of sufficient quantity to be of toxicological concern under acute or chronic use conditions. FDA remains convinced that the studies submitted by Searle in support of the dry use and reviewed by the FDA prior to the dry uses approval and again its evaluation of the carbonated beverage petition adequately support the agency's conclusion that there was "no cause for concern from the levels of dietary methanol resulting from the highest projected levels of aspartame consumption (48FR 31376 at 33181)."
After many requests, Dr. Roberts has still been unable to obtain data from the FDA concerning its assays for the free methanol content of fruits, fruit juices, alcohol beverages and other products derived by current methods.
* The reference used by the FDA concerning the presence of more methanol in the "average fruit juice" (Francot l956) than aspartame containing orange soda was published three decades earlier. (written by Roberts in l990)
* Dr. David G. Hattan (Chief, Regulatory Affairs Staff, Office of Nutrition and Food Sciences, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition of the FDA) told Dr. Roberts that he was not aware of any such recent analyses (personal communication, June 8, l987).
Three older references on this subject are repeatedly cited. They were published in French (Le Moan l956), German (Sommer l962), and Russian (Ivanitsky l973). Dr. Roberts questions their relevance to aspartame, however, owing to the emphasis on methanol in pectin-containing fruit and fruit products, some vegetables, wines and their alcoholic beverages. In fact, Ivanitskly (l973) concluded: "From the standpoint of health, it is not correct to apply the standards of the methanol content of alcoholic beverages arbitrarily to fruit juices, as has been done by several authors."
Dr. Roberts says another issue must be raised in this context. Any effects of small amounts of methanol possibly present in fruit juices and wine tend to be offset by their caloric content and the presence of ethanol (Gilger l959). This contrasts with the absence of nourishment in the case of "diet drinks".
Studies by Lund et al (l981) and Nispeeros-Camedo and Shaw (l989) have clarified the methanol ethanol and acetylaldehyde concentrations of citrus products. Contemporary gas chromatography methods were used. These data indicate the following:
* The concentration of methanol is higher in fresh-squeezed orange juice compared to the small amounts in pasteurized orange juice (22 mg/liter), frozen concentrate (3.4 mg/liter), reconstituted juice from concentrate (trace/one glass) and orange juice in the cans (trace). The former is undoubtedly due to persistence of pectinmethylesterase enzyme in the unpasteurized juice which demethylates some pectin and liberates methanol in the process."
This is the end of quotes from Dr. Roberts book. Confirming the seriousness of aspartame disease he writes about is a recent study, Trocho C, Pardo R, Rafecas I, etc. from Barcelona Spain showing that the formaldehyde accumulates in the cells and damages DNA. Neurosurgeon Russell Blaylock, M.D., writes to the Minneapolis Neuropathy Association about this study and others, and you can read his letter on He also writes about the methanol in aspartame in his book Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills.
The late Dr. Morgan Raiford, ophthalmologist and specialist in methanol toxicity, diagnosed many of the aspartame victims who went blind in the 80's. In l986 the Community Nutrition Institute filed a petition with the FDA to ban aspartame because so many were going blind but the FDA refused as they are very loyal to Monsanto. We sent thousands of case histories to Dr. Michael Friedman of the FDA and in June Monsanto hired him.
One day the FDA and Monsanto will have to answer for what they have done. Since aspartame is estimated to be in 9000 products and climbing and 100 countries of the world, Aspartame Disease may end up being one of the largest epidemics in world history!
A few months ago world famous toxicologist, Dr. George Schwartz, wrote Team NutraSweet and said: "By ignoring the scientific studies which disagree with your position, you are doing a great disservice to consumers. Further, you may have created a base for litigation against your company by denying existing science."
While Monsanto complains of misinformation on aspartame on the Internet, it is Monsanto themselves who are putting it out.
All my best, Betty
Betty Martini, Founder Mission Possible International (warning the world off NutraSweet)