Continuing his assault on artificial sweeteners, Spurlock writes:
"There were far more troubling studies possibly linking aspartame to birth defects and brain tumors, one conducted by the FDA itself as early as 1981, but they were overlooked in the rush to get NutraSweet approved and marketed." (p. 98)Spurlock again seems to have fallen for an urban legend.
FDA calls aspartame, sold under trade names such as NutraSweet and Equal, one of the most thoroughly tested and studied food additives the agency has ever approved. The agency says the more than 100 toxicological and clinical studies it has reviewed confirm that aspartame is safe for the general population.Of course, Spurlock writes that the FDA "rushed" the sweetener to market, implying that the agency bowed to political pressure, in which case -- I guess -- we shouldn't believe what it writes.
All of have considered the claims Spurlock publishes as fact, and thoroughly rebuked them as hysterical Internet scaremongering.
The most cursory of Internet research turned these articles up. In fact, a visit to Snopes would have sufficed to find them all. Instead, Spurlock cites the very sorts of quackish, alarmist websites the FDA, respected medical journals, academics, and other journalists caution anyone with a lick of sense from taking seriously.
He's that eager to demonize Big Food.
So what of that study that perported to link aspartame to brain tumors? It was conducted by a couple of Washington University researchers who apparently saw a 10% rise in incidence in brain tumors shortly after the sweetener was put on the U.S. market in the early 1980s. They didn't even check to see if the people who got brain tumors after 1983 had actually consumed any aspartame. Pure, speculative correlation. Bizarrely, they overlooked the fact that that rise was merely the tail end of a decade-long rise in brain cancer that began in the early 1970s -- well before aspartame hit the market. Beginning in the mid-1980s incidents of brain cancer began a decade-long leveling off -- with aspartame use on the rise all the while.
Spurlock, again, bites on an urban legend and Internet hoax. And one that, again, could have been disproven with as little effort as a Google search.