Maybe you're okay with your kids eating artificial sweetener. Maybe you're not. Either way, you'd probably want to know if it was in your child's food, right? If a current petition from two major dairy organizations is successful, the FDA could begin to allow aspartame and other artificial sweeteners to be added to milk and other dairy products WITHOUT a label. On the basis that doing so will "promote healthy eating" in children. Which is kind of ironic, considering the FDA actually banned aspartame ... twice.
And with good reason.
See, my parents were hippies, so I was raised eating all-natural and organic long before it was cool (or even acceptable). Artificial flavor? Forget it. Artificial color? Not a chance! But the most offensive ingredient of all, in my mother's opinion, was artificial sweetener -- otherwise known as aspartame. Diet soda, sugarless gum, and the like were absolutely forbidden in my house, because natural food-types believed the stuff could cause health problems from cancer to epilepsy.
Like most kids, when I got older, I decided everything my mother said was nonsense. Then when I got even older, I realized some of the things my mother said weren't nonsense ... and according to tons of research, the stuff about artificial sweetener being unhealthy was NOT nonsense. Why? Here's a little bit of background info on what, exactly, aspartame IS:
An Aspartame molecule is essentially made up of 3 different substances. 90% of it is made of two natural amino acids, 1 being aspartic acid and the other being phenylalanine. The other 10% of the molecule is made up of a methyl ester bond (includes Methanol). The methanol is released from the aspartame within hours of consumption and begins traveling through the body via the blood. Once the methyl ester bond is broken, it separates into methyl alcohol and methanol (wood alcohol). The big problem with methanol is that it easily passes into your blood-brain barrier and, once there, is converted into formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is what is causing the brain damage. While animals are able to detoxify methanol in the body, humans do not have this capability.
Wow, that's fairly horrifying. Especially considering the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Milk Producers Federation are trying to convince the FDA to HIDE THIS STUFF in dairy products. I'm not okay with that ... are you?!
Do you think the FDA should be allowed to hide aspartame in dairy products?
Image via Steve Snodgrass/Flickr