Food Law News - UK - 2001

FSA Statement, 4 August 2001

LABELLING - Information for People with Phenylketonuria (PKU) - Mislabelling of Soft Drinks Containing Aspartame

The Food Standards Agency is concerned to find that mislabelled soft drinks containing aspartame have been on sale in the UK. It is a legal requirement for all products containing this sweetener to include the statement "contains a source of phenylalanine". This statement is a necessary safeguard for people who suffer from the inherited metabolic disorder phenylketonuria (PKU), which is diagnosed at birth. Sufferers need to exercise strict control over their diet. The mislabelled products are correctly labelled as containing aspartame, but fail to carry the additional statement.

Phenylalanine is a normal constituent of protein in foods and presents no problems for the vast majority of the population. However, up to 5000 people in the UK suffer from PKU and cannot freely consume foods that contain it, including foods sweetened with aspartame. For this reason all products containing aspartame are required to be specially labelled.

The mislabelled products are:

We advise PKU sufferers and their families to check their cupboards to see whether they have inadvertently purchased these products.

Coca-Cola GB have placed advertisements in national newspapers to inform consumers who may have purchased the affected products. The Agency has discussed the scope of the problem with Coca-Cola GB and is taking additional steps to inform PKU sufferers through hospital clinics.

Although we welcome the action taken by the manufacturer, it is nevertheless disappointing that this mistake was made. We therefore take this opportunity to remind all food manufacturers and retailers that it is a legal requirement for the wording "contains a source of phenylalanine" to appear on the labels of all products that contain the sweetener aspartame (E951).

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