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The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has ruled that the widely-used artificial sweetener aspartame does not increase the risk of cancer.

The watchdog launched an urgent review of the sweetener last year, following a report by the European Ramzzini Foundation (ERF) which claimed that it could cause cancers in rats at low doses.

Although recognising the ERF report as “very extensive”, EFSA said that it reached different conclusions.

“EFSA considers that the results of this new study on aspartame do not provide a scientific basis for reconsidering its use in foods,” said Dr. Herman Koeter, acting executive director.

“If any new information would become available in the future, EFSA will review these as a matter of priority.”

The authority said that it will not change its recommended maximum daily intake level of aspartame, currently equal to around 14 cans of soft drink or 80 sachets of sweetener.

The EFSA examined the ERF study, which monitored more than 1,800 rats given varying amounts of aspartame over the course of their lives.

It disputed an ERF claim that tumours discovered had been linked to aspartame, pointing out that the rate of cancer bore no relation to the doses received.

Henry Scowcroft, science information officer at Cancer Research UK, welcomed the findings.

“This detailed report sets out the facts clearly. It concludes there is no evidence to suggest that consuming aspartame at or below the existing daily recommended level by the EFSA increases the risk of cancer,” he said.

Read the EFSA report