by Andrew Osborne
So, people often mistakenly believe that I’m addicted to alcohol, when the truth is I’m more what you might call an alcohol enthusiast. I am, however, completely addicted to Diet Coke. And not in the “gee, I really like Diet Coke” kinda way, but more in the full-on William S. Burroughs sense of the term. And, as with most addictions, there’s apparently a down side, at least according to the nice people who keep telling me the aspartame in my favorite beverage is eventually gonna turn me into a drooling vegetable (or worse).
Now, if I truly believed Diet Coke was as dangerous as cigarettes…well, there’s a pretty good chance I would probably stop drinking it. And I have to admit that it is pretty troubling to know Donald Rumsfeld had a major hand in getting the sweetener approved by the FDA, what with him being an evil hemorrhoid and all.
And yet, the Coca-Cola website says this: “Prior to its approval, aspartame underwent one of the most thorough scientific reviews ever conducted. National and international regulatory bodies consider it one of the most widely tested ingredients in the food supply, and more than 90 nations worldwide have approved aspartame for use. It is used widely in countries such as the U.S., the European Union, and Japan.”
It also says this: “A current email being passed around the Web falsely associates a host of health risks with aspartame, the sweetener used in Diet Coke and many other products from other companies. This email claims that aspartame causes a number of diseases — claims that are false. It is unfortunate that the Internet’s remarkable capacity to transmit information is being so abused.
“We want you to know that every reliable piece of scientific information we have identified shows that aspartame is a safe and suitable sweetener. Despite the irresponsible and unfounded rumors that are now appearing on the Internet, we want to assure you that there is no scientific information linking aspartame to any specific set of symptoms or diseases.
“Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation on the Internet and in the media about the ingredients in foods and beverages we consume. You can be assured that aspartame is one of the most thoroughly tested substances in the food supply and has consistently been found to be safe by food safety experts and regulatory authorities.The Coca-Cola Company would not use aspartame as an ingredient in any of our products if this were not true.”
Now, of course big corporations lie. But are they lying about this? Are they figuring they’ll kill some people and face some lawsuits but still remain vastly profitable like the cigarette companies? Or is the danger of aspartame one of those things people assume to be true even though it might not be, like the link between vaccinations and autism? After all, cigarettes are inherently dangerous and unhealthy, whereas if aspartame is truly as dangerous as some people think, the Coca-Cola company could avoid a whole mess o’ trouble by simply switching sweeteners. Then again, Wall Street could have avoided a whole mess of trouble by acting logically and responsibly, so who knows when it comes to corporate “people”?
Anyway, if I were to be convinced that aspartame is truly dangerous, then I might try launching a campaign to get Diet Coke to switch sweeteners (or, y’know, wait for somebody more ambitious and socially connected than me to take up the cause).
But until then…your thoughts?