The European Commission has agreed to a request from the bloc’s food watchdog to extend a review into the sweetener aspartame.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said yesterday (7 August) it now had until May next year to complete the fresh review into the ingredient.

EFSA had planned to report its findings by the end of this year. However, it said its panel on food additives and nutrient sources added to food needed more data on a potential consequence of using aspartame in food and drinks.

“In the course of its scientific deliberations, the panel found that there were too little data available on 5-benzyl-3,6-dioxo-2-piperazine acetic acid (DKP) and other potential degradation products that can be formed from aspartame in food and beverages when stored under certain conditions,” EFSA said.

“EFSA is therefore launching an additional call for data on DKP and other degradation products of aspartame.”

The fresh scrutiny of aspartame is part of the Commission’s commitment to review the safety of all addivitives used in food and food ingredients by 2020.

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The Commission said last year that “new scientific information” meant aspartame had jumped the queue for re-evaluation.

Aspartame is used widely in low-calorie drinks and food and has been dogged by health concerns since its emergence in the 1980s. However, food and drink firms have vehemently denied that the sweetener poses a health risk to consumers and several studies by regulatory authorities around the world have concluded that it is safe.