The Milkweed

Posted: 22 May 2009

Got (Aspartame in Your) Milk???

Dairy's two biggest trade associations have jointly written the Food and Drug Administration requesting that "non-nutritive sweeteners" be included in federal standards of identity for 17 different dairy products, including fluid milk. What's the logic behind this request to alter federal standards by National Milk Producers Federation and the International Dairy Foods Assn.? NMPF explains that Senator Tom Harkin's (D-IA) staff on the Senate Agriculture Committee wants to limit the calories in the milk portion of the School Lunch Program. Since flavored (sweetened) milk beverages are very popular with school-age children, the only way dairy can "come in under the wire" for the Senate staffers' demands is to shift sweeteners to zero- or low-calorie types. Trouble is: a growing number of consumers try to avoid non-nutritive sweeteners. Aspartame (marketed as "NutraSweet" and "Equal") is the single most widely used nonnutritive sweetener. The aspartic acid in aspartame - an "excitotoxin" - has a long lost of human health issues and brings along its own baggage of dedicated activists to the issue. Adding such nonnutritive sweeteners to the standards of identity for 17 dairy products would be the DUMBEST move by dairy's major trade associations since they embraced recombinant bovine growth hormone more than 20 years ago! Writer Paris Reidhead begins a multi-part series on non-nutritive sweeteners (with primary emphasis on aspartame) in this issue. Dairy doesn't need these dangerous toxic substances in our milk!

Aspartame: One Man's Poison ... Another Man's Profit

Part 1 of a series

by Paris Reidhead

Methanol is the chemical cornerstone of the world's predominant artificial sweetener: aspartame (also know as NutraSweet and Equal). Any ingested product that contains methanol (methyl alcohol) will, at some point, cause adverse health problems for persons consuming it. Aspartame contains 10% methanol, 40% aspartic acid, and 50% phenylalanine. However, in proteins amino acids are in balance. Some such as aspartic acid and phenylalanine found in aspartame cannot be isolated because they become excitotoxic and neurotoxic. They cause metabolic and physiological disorders in humans, which I will address later.

Of these three aspartame components, methanol has the longest history - a history of politics and greed going back to the Prohibition Era. In1919, with passage of the 18th Amendment, the federal government outlawed the production and consumption of grain alcohol (ethanol). Organized crime's illegal activities broke and circumvented the new laws during the fourteen years of that era. Central to those illegal activities was the notorious, ever-present, organized bootlegging.

The United States' mandated withdrawal from the alcohol vice led to widespread corruption of politicians and law enforcement agencies. Prohibition also helped finance powerful crime syndicates: money which would have been collected as liquor tax wound up in the wrong hands. Besides the murders of law enforcement officers, bootleggers more commonly caused death and disability through methanol poisoning.

Methanol - highly-toxic wood alcohol - found its way into much bootleg liquor. When methanol denatured industrial alcohol was not sufficiently diluted, or was consumed in large quantities, paralysis, blindness, and death resulted. In 1927, almost12,000 deaths were attributed to alcohol poisonings, many of these among the urban poor who could not afford imported liquors. In 1930, U.S. public health officials estimated that 15,000 persons were afflicted with "jake foot," a debilitating paralysis of the hands and feet brought on by drinking denatured alcohol flavored with ginger root.

Politics greased FDA's Aspartame approval

After Prohibition, wood alcohol poisoning cases nearly vanished. Since there was plenty of ethanol, there was no need to stretch it with methanol. The following high spots were compiled by Jim Turner in his "Aspartame Timeline," which detailed just how methanol resurfaced, this time legally. Turner is a Washington DC-based consumer advocate attorney, whose public advocacy career began with Nader's Raiders. Turner's work was instrumental in getting cyclamate taken off the market in 1970 (Examine his timeline in depth at Here are the lowlights from Turner's aspartame history:

1965: While working on an ulcer drug, Dr. James Schlatter, a chemist at G.D. Searle Company, accidentally discovered aspartame. He was constructing a new molecule out of methanol and two amino acids (aspartic acid and phenylalanine). Some of the white precipitate ended up on his finger. Instinctively, he licked it off (generally not a good practice in chemistry labs). That powder was extremely sweet, measuring 180 times the sweetness of sugar. But that new substance had no calories!

1970: Cyclamate, the #1 low-calorie artificial sweetener, was pulled off the market by the federal Food and Drug Administration after some scientists found that cyclamates caused cancers. The only other artificial sweetener, saccharin, also became suspect as a cancer-causer, thus leaving the field wide open for aspartame. Searle Company executives contrived a "Food and Drug Sweetener Strategy," propaganda which they hoped would positively spin aspartame to the FDA.

1971: Neuroscientist Dr. John Olney [whose pioneering work with monosodium glutamate (MSG) was responsible for removing that chemical from baby foods] informed Searle that his studies showed that aspartic acid caused holes in the brains of infant mice. One of Searle's researchers confirmed Olney's findings. Both MSG and the aspartic acid in aspartame are biochemically categorized as excitotoxins. (An excitotoxin is a substance added to foods and beverages that literally stimulates neurons to death, causing brain damage of various degrees.) 1974: Attorney Jim Turner met with Searle representatives to discuss Dr. Olney's 1971 studies. None-the-less, the FDA granted aspartame's approval for use in dry foods. Jim Turner and Dr. John Olney filed the first objections against aspartame approval.

1977: FDA requested the U.S. Attorney's office to investigate whether indictments should be filed against Searle for knowingly misrepresenting research findings pertaining to aspartame safety tests. This was the first time that FDA ever requested a criminal investigation of a manufacturer. Searle then hired prominent Washington insider Donald Rumsfeld as its new CEO to turn the company around. A former member of congress and Secretary of Defense in the Gerald Ford Administration, Rumsfeld brought in several Washington cronies as top management. Both U.S. Attorneys Sam Skinner and William Conlon hired on with the defense team, and the statute of limitations expired.

1980: The FDA's Public Board of Inquiry (PBOI) concluded that NutraSweet should not be approved, pending further investigations of brain tumors in animals. PBOI stated that "it has not been presented with proof of reasonable certainty that aspartame is safe for use as a food additive."

1981: On January 21, the day after Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as President, Searle Company resubmitted its petition for approval of aspartame. According to former Searle salesperson Patty Wood- Alcott, Searle's President (and then former Secretary of Defense) Donald Rumsfeld had claimed that, if necessary, "he would call in all his markers and that, no matter what, he would see to it that aspartame would be approved that year." Ronald Reagan had to decide between Rumsfeld and George H.W. Bush as running mate during his 1980 campaign. Bush got V.P. and Rumsfeld got owed a favor. True to Rumsfeld's word, FDA approved aspartame for use in dry products on July 15, 1981.

1983: Attorney Jim Turner (Community Nutrition Institute) and Dr. Woodrow Monte (Arizona State University's Director of Food Science and Nutrition Laboratories) filed suit against the FDA, objecting to aspartame approval, alleging unresolved safety issues. That fall, carbonated beverages containing aspartame were, for the first time, sold for public consumption.

1985: May and August, U.S. Congressional hearings on NutraSweet: Health and safety concerns. Scientists and physicians spoke out.

1987: Another Congressional hearing was held on aspartame, "NutraSweet: Health and Safety Concerns", chaired by Senator Howard Metzenbaum, Chairman of the Committee on Labor and Human Resources.

1998: Monsanto petitioned FDA for approval of Neotame, approximately 10,000 times as sweet as sugar. Monsanto created Neotame by taking aspartame and adding to it one molecule of 3-dimethylbutyl. The EPA lists 3-dimethylbutyl as "a most hazardous chemical."

1999: Monsanto sold its sweetener division (NutraSweet) to four entities: Merisant (a group of Monsanto managers), Ajinomoto Company, J.W. Childs Partnership, and Michael Dell.

2002: FDA approved Neotame, despite formal objections by scientists, physicians, and activists.

To the present ... March 2009: National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and Independent Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) proposed that the FDA include non-nutritive sweeteners in the standards of identity for 17 different dairy products, to encourage children to consume low-fat dairy products.

Aspartame: three-pronged attack

Former FDA investigator Arthur Evangelista wrote: "What I can tell you regarding toxicology, histology, and biochemistry, is that aspartame is neurotoxic. Its components easily transcend the blood-brain barrier, interfering with the normal nerve cell function. This affects the glutathione and calcium mechanisms in place, destroying nerve cell integrity...The subsequent result from this interaction, and from isolates of genetically modified amino acids and methanol, is nerve cell necrosis and subsequent organ system degradation."

Aspartame's Trojan horse affront to human health is three-fold:

Aspartic Acid: The human body produces aspartic acid as a neurotransmitter, enabling the transfer of impulses between neurons. Excesses of this amino acid create too many neurotransmitters in certain areas of the brain. So these excesses damage or kill neurons by over stimulating them - hence the term "excitotoxin." Large numbers of people consuming aspartic acid from aspartame (and now neotame) develop a variety of health issues. These are commonly diagnosed as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and Lou Gehrig's disease. Lesser, undiagnosed, symptoms include memory loss, sexual dysfunction, heart irregularities, headaches, hearing loss, seizures, blood sugar anomalies, irritability, and varying degrees of dementia. Phenylalanine: The human body also produces phenylalanine, another amino acid.

Phenylalanine derived from aspartame can cross the blood-brain barrier and cause an imbalance of itself in the brain, causing serotonin to decrease. This lowered serotonin triggers psychiatric and behavioral problems, and aspartame interacts with all antidepressants. Elevated phenylalanine levels in both the blood and parts of the brain are associated with constant aspartame use. Neurosurgeon Russell Blaylock has shown earlier studies, which indicate that concentrations of this amino acid accumulate in the hypothalamus, medulla oblongata, and corpus stranium areas of the brain. Even earlier studies had determined that phenylalanine buildup in the brain can cause schizophrenia, or increase susceptibility to seizures.

Methanol: Methanol is a well-known neurotoxin. The EPA recognizes it as a cumulative poison, stating that methanol is oxidized to formaldehyde and formic acid; both of these metabolites are toxic. Methanol metabolizes rapidly, but does so even faster when temperatures exceed 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Think about how the human body temperature impacts methanol's rate of reaction. The symptoms of methanol poisoning include headaches, tinnitus, dizziness, nausea, digestive disturbances, weakness, vertigo, chills, vision problems, retinal damage and blindness, memory lapses, numbness and shooting pains in the extremities, behavioral problems, and neuritis. The Trocho study in 1998 showed that the formaldehyde converted from the free methyl alcohol embalms living tissue and damages DNA. A metabolic by-product of the entire aspartame molecule is diketopiperazine (DKP), which is associated with brain tumor formation. DKP has been found in aspartame-containing beverages during prolonged storage, particularly above 86 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes aspartame a cancer-causing agent.

Aspartame & Phenylketonuria: Beware! Dr. Russell L. Blaylock, renowned professor of neurosurgery at the Medical University of Mississippi, writes that phenylalanine is an amino acid normally found in the brain. Persons with Phenylketonuria (PKU) cannot metabolize phenylalanine. PKU is a genetic disorder that is characterized by an inability of the body to utilize the essential amino acid phenylalanine. This condition leads to dangerously high levels of phenylalanine in the brain(sometimes lethal). It has been shown that ingesting aspartame, especially along with carbohydrates, can lead to excess levels of phenylalanine in the brain, even in persons who do not have PKU. One in 50 individuals in the United States has inherited a gene for PKU. About 5 million Americans are PKU carriers. About one in 15,000 newborn babies tests positive for PKU in the United States. Studies indicate that the incidence of this disease in Caucasian and Native American populations is higher than in African-American, Hispanic, and Asian populations. In Ireland the PKU gene is about three times more common (about one in 15) than in the U.S.

In his book "Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills", Blaylock detailed how many people who have eaten large amounts of aspartame over a long period of time and do not have PKU have been shown to have excessive levels of phenylalanine in the blood. Excessive levels of brain phenylalanine can cause the levels of serotonin in the brain to decrease, leading to psychiatric and behavioral problems, such as mood swings, manic depression, suicidal tendencies, and panic attacks. Human testing has shown that phenylalanine levels of the blood were increased significantly in subjects who chronically used aspartame.

Closing Comments

Betty Martini is the founder of the worldwide volunteer force, Mission Possible World Health International. Since 1992 that group has been committed to removing aspartame from our food supply. Telephone her at 770-242-2599; e-mail address is; Web sites are and Martini speaks frequently on nationwide radio hookups for talk programs. She also conducts overseas seminars on anti-aspartame activism.

Most recently, as soon as she returned from one such engagement in Ireland two weeks ago, she generously gave her time to help me research this article. Offering a word of encouragement, Martini said, "thousands" of people's chronic symptoms have reversed, once aspartame is removed from their diets. However, because aspartame is so poisonous, it can trigger polychemical sensitivity syndrome for life. Victims must no longer used processed foods, or they can react".

Let me close with some of her comments which appeared in the National Health Federation's newsletter Health Freedom News of 2006. . She was expressing her opinion of the manner in which the FDA (under Donald Rumsfeld's orchestration) sold out to the synthetic sweetener industry twenty plus years ago:

"By now the FDA was truly turned, becoming in effect Monsanto's Branch Office in Washington, DC. Today, the Agency gets more than half of its money from the industry it regulates, serving them instead of us. Said the late FDA toxicologist, Dr. Adrian Gross, in his congressional testimony, 'the cancer causing potential of aspartame is a matter established way beyond any reasonable doubt.' Yet the FDA ignored its own scientist. If the FDA itself elects to violate the law, then who is left to protect the health of the public?"

The proposal by NMPF and IDFA - to allow non-nutritive sweeteners in the standard of identity for 17 different dairy products... sounds like the worst endangerment of public confidence in dairy products since recombinant bovine growth hormone reared its ugly countenance.

Aspartame Manufacturing Residues Proves Fatal to Dairy Cattle Also Though it limits the amount of toxic substances that can be dumped into the sewers, with the exception of several heavy metals such as cadmium and lead, the EPA doesn't test for contaminants when they come out the other end of the pipes, where they may be concentrated in sludge. Some scientists are concerned that dangerous levels of contaminants from sludge are passing into crops and groundwater, as well as blowing off fields and becoming airborne. In 1979, Andy McElmurray, a Georgia dairyman, started applying locally-produced sludge fertilizer to his fields. Over the next several years, nearly half his 700 cows died from severe diarrhea. The EPA didn't test his soil, but McElmurray hired his own experts, who concluded that his sludge had contained high levels of thallium. A toxic metal that is the active ingredient in rat poison, thallium rarely turns up in sewage, but it was used as a catalyst by a nearby NutraSweet factory, in Augusta, GA. When McElmurray's experts sampled a local milk brand, they detected thallium at levels more than 11 times above the legal limit for drinking water. McElmurray sued the federal government for disaster relief, claiming sludge had destroyed his farm. He finally won the case last year. "I believe that if the farmer knew the truth, he would never put sludge on his farmland," he says. "It's all a smoke-and-mirrors game that the EPA has played." His view was echoed by the federal judge who ruled in his favor, finding that "senior EPA officials took extraordinary steps to quash scientific dissent and any questioning of the EPA's biosolids program." Betty Martini is familiar with the Augusta NutraSweet factory. She says that folks working in any part of aspartame manufacture must wear hazardous material protective gear. At the NutraSweet factory sometimes protective gear doesn't keep employees safe and healthy. Strangely enough, workers are strongly encouraged not to call in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration folks.