Coke Defends Safety of Aspartame in New Ads

Amid growing concerns about the safety of artificial sweeteners, and faced with declining sales of its diet carbonated soft drinks (CSD) The Coca-Cola Co. has launched a series of new ads defending the company’s use of aspartame, according to an article in USA Today.

The first ad, headlined “Quality products you can always feel good about,” appeared yesterday in Atlanta-area editions of the newspaper and landed in the Atlanta Journal Constitution today. The ad will be also featured in the Chicago Tribune next week.

Claiming that “the safety of aspartame is supported by more than 200 studies over the last 40 years,” the ad is designed to “is to bring to light what is often overlooked, that low- and no-calorie sweeteners which have been tested extensively are safe and beneficial in weight management,” Caren Pasquale Seckler, vice president of social commitment, The Coca-Cola Co., told USA Today.

The new campaign follows one that Coke launched in January, which pushed back on critics who allege that sugary drinks are a key link to growing rates of obesity. In a statement, the cola giant outlined a series of initiatives intended to help “support and promote physical activity initiatives in local communities.”

Despite assurances from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that aspartame is safe for use in foods and beverages, some remain concerned about the long-term effectsof the sweetener, and possible links between aspartame and obesity. Karen Congro, director of the Wellness for Life Club program at the Brooklyn Hospital Center, told USA Today that it’s possible that the human brain sends out insulin in reaction to the consumption of artificial sweeteners and that “relying on artificial sweeteners probably causes cravings for sweets and sugar, which can contribute to obesity and poor eating habits.”

In a statement about the new Coke ads, Michael F. Jacobson, Executive Director, Center for Science in the Public Interest, took criticism of aspartame a step further, saying that “aspartame has been found to cause cancer—leukemia, lymphoma, and other tumors—in laboratory animals, and it shouldn’t be in the food supply.” He suggested that Coke place greater focus on natural sweeteners, such as stevia, an ingredient that Coke is currently testing in a new cola called Coca-Cola Life.

“We certainly want Coca-Cola to shift its product mix toward lower- and no-calorie drinks, but aspartame’s reputation isn’t worth rehabilitating with this propaganda campaign,” Jacobson said.