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Calls for Govt to Scrap Forcing Aspartame on Kids

10 March 2008

Media statement: For immediate release

Phoenix Calls on Govt to Scrap Agreement Forcing Aspartame on Kids

Phoenix Organics’ CEO Stefan Lepionka has called on Food Safety Minister Lianne Dalziel and Health Minister David Cunliffe to scrap the Voluntary Schools Beverage Statement in light of new research from Purdue University that artificial sweeteners “may make it tougher, not easier, to lose weight”.

“Given that the Voluntary Schools Beverage Statement was agreed as part of a package of measures aimed at reducing childhood obesity, it seems utterly irresponsible to force our kids to drink artificially sweetened beverages that may make them fatter,” said Stefan Lepionka.

“Coca Cola has already started completely replacing its range of drinks in schools with aspartame-sweetened drinks some 9 months ahead of the 2009 timeline – and in spite of a growing body of research showing aspartame can affect children’s behaviour.”

The voluntary agreement between Government and the beverage companies was hailed in late 2006 by then ministers of Education and Health Steve Maharey and Pete Hodgson as the “world’s first to be negotiated directly between government and industry leaders.

The researchers from Purdue University found that ‘sweet foods may prompt the body to get ready to take in a lot of calories, but when sweetness in the form of artificial sweeteners is not followed by a large amount of calories, he body gets confused, which may lead to eating more or expending less energy than normal.’

“Given the risks that new studies about the artificial sweetener aspartame are confirming just about every day, I would say this agreement is more an example of world class stupidity.”

“These Ministers hailed an accord that allows the drinks companies to make even bigger profits by substituting a dangerous chemical for more expensive and natural sugar, while countries like France and Britain have moved to ban all drinks except water from sale in their schools.”

Phoenix Organics launched its ‘Think Before You Drink’ campaign late last year to raise awareness of the possible health risks associated with aspartame.

Initiatives undertaken to date include:
- Printing 20,000 specially branded bottles of Phoenix Organic Cola with labels highlighting the concerns about aspartame
- Developing advertisements to highlight the issue
- Establishing dedicated pages at where people can find out more about aspartame. A number of people have posted their experiences with aspartame here.
- Distributing and publicising the Safe Food Campaign’s anti aspartame petition. Several thousand names were recently forwarded to the Safe Food Campaign.
- Calling a meeting between a number of groups working to get aspartame banned or restricted and sharing information.
- Official Information Act requests lodged with the Ministry of Health and NZFSA.


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