EP News Report, 20 February 2003
The Environment Committee adopted a co-decision report on Wednesday calling on the Commission to tighten up the new restrictions it is proposing on maximum levels of cyclamates in soft drinks after the Commission told MEPs that its proposal to reduce levels, rather than ban the artificial sweetener altogether, was based on "facts and data from the Member States, not science".
When pressed by MEPs to say why cyclamates should not be banned in the EU, as they had been in the US, the Commission representative defended the recommendation of the EU Scientific Committee on Food to reduce maximum doses of cyclamates in soft drinks from the current level of 400 mg/l to 350 mg/l. The Commission does not feel that a ban is justified, despite claims quoted by some MEPs that cyclamates cause reduced testosterone levels in rats and are carcinogenic.
After a heated debate, the committee voted to reduce the limit further to 250 mg/l and to extend the new limit to milk-based drinks in addition to water-based drinks. Various EPP members emphasised the benefits of low-calorie sweeteners for people with dietary problems whilst PES and Green members pointed to the health hazards of cyclamates, particularly for diabetic children.
The report, by Anne FERREIRA (PES, F), which was adopted by 30 votes to 13, with 1 abstention, accepts the Commission's proposal, in the same draft directive, to authorise two new sweeteners, sucralose and aspartame - acesulfame salt. However, it calls for a review of their use within three years. It also wants the use of two other artificial sweeteners, aspartame and Stevia, to be re-examined and calls for proposals to improve the labelling of products containing aspartame. The committee says the new directive should be implemented in the Member States within a year of its entry into force.