Citizens' Issues
Did you check the neurotoxin in your ‘soft’ drink today?

Why are we being fed with increasing amounts of neurotoxins in our diet, in the name of processed foods, when the rest of the world is moving away from them? Pepsi and Coke will actually share the World Cup win on Saturday, as India and Sri Lanka fight for the crumbs

As we head in for the finals of the World Cup 2011, it is increasingly becoming apparent that the game is not just between India and Sri Lanka, but largely between Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola. This in itself would not have been a problem, sports need sponsors, and cricket has always had a long list of entities waiting to pay the bill.

How many of us can forget the fact that Benson & Hedges were the original sponsors here, and subsequently for some time Wills paid some of the bills too, until globally tobacco companies were prevented by law from sponsoring sports. The rest of the world had by then banned tobacco advertising in sports, but India was amongst the last bastions to fall, and given half a chance, subliminal and crony as well as covert advertising for tobacco products still continues- awards for bravery, for example, as well as ranges in clothing and soaps being a common subterfuge.
 
But face facts, smoking is increasingly becoming socially unacceptable in India, and about time too.
 
How long before this good sense reaches those who make and implement our laws, as far as carbonated coloured sweetened beverages using chemicals for constituents which are certainly not good for our health are concerned? To ban fizzy colas/orange/lemon and clear flavoured bottled & fountain served waters with bubbles in them (also called "soft drinks") in India? By rights, this is overdue, and should have happened yesterday, as is already happening in the developed countries we look up to in so many other ways. If it has not, then it is simply because the machinery that propels this momentum forward is huge, and comprises of not just the manufacturers but also their advertising companies, their PR companies, their bought out medical associations, and the whole nine yards as far as the rest of them are concerned, anybody who would dare to try and stand up against them.
 
Except some of us, who seek information for the larger public good, and when faced with impediments-sink our teeth in even deeper. And therein lies a tale which shall evolve with time.
 
Experience has taught many of us that when those in power take extremely hyperactive steps to hide information, then it becomes all the more important to try and find out what they are hiding, since if this information was not likely to cause any problems to the larger good-then why would they want to hide the truth? To give a simple example, when I asked a simple question relating to the Commonwealth Games way back in early 2006, on how much did they actually spend on taking some actors and dancers to Melbourne, and got stonewalled at every step- that's when I realised that there was probably something hidden which was causing the people who took the effort to hide it some concern-so it was worth going after it.
 
That's what got the nation this judgement: http://www.indiankanoon.org/doc/465885/
 
Which subsequently opened the door for the accounts and numbers, as well as skeletons and scams, to come tumbling out in what is known as the "CWG scam".

The word being sought, if I remember my school maths correctly, is and was "fulcrum". And now with the help of Moneylife as well as others, I seek the fulcrum that will help me bust the great Coke & Pepsi game in India, which also goes by the names Aspartame, NutriSweet and Equal, amongst others.
 
If you have seen working terriers chasing small animals you will realise the whole concept-they don't want to eat that animal, they just want to know what that animal is up to-and if it appears to be damaging things, like rats and other animals do, then to get it out of the way.  Sometimes they want to scare it so that it heads into a trap. Or moves out of its safe spot. Let's go back to these terriers. I quote an example: "Working terriers (Hunting types): Still used to find, track, or trail quarry, especially underground, and sometimes to bolt the quarry."

In other words, just the fact that somebody has started sniffing around is enough to push them to react. If we want to reach something, then we have to not just sniff it out-we have to be like terriers.
 
Which is what is happening as I start a new search and hunt for how this amazing drug, called "aspartame", has entered India's statutes as a sweetener instead of as a neurotoxin, and has started replacing real and simple sugar in everything from "soft drinks" to sweetmeats, biscuits, bakery products and even traditional products like halwa. All in the name of lower cost and higher sweetness. While trying to convince us that there is no difference.
 
But there is a big difference. Sugar in its various natural forms simply makes things sweeter, for natural or other reasons, and doesn't cause much harm beyond causing the obvious side effects of consuming too much sweet-which we already know about. Aspartame, on the other hand, even in extremely minute quantities, well below the levels found in a single can of Coke or Pepsi, diet or otherwise, is known to cause not just common ailments like headaches, dizziness, slurred speech and confusion. On the larger scale, however, it causes a vast variety of serious diseases-not the least of which are some forms of cancer, as well as serious issues for pregnant women, babies, chronic fatigue syndrome and brain damage as well as tumours therein.

As a matter of simple fact, a large number of Gulf War returnees (from the Kuwait-Iraq conflict) were diagnosed as having suffered from major neurological disorders, traced directly back to consuming litres and litres of "diet" soft drinks which had, before that, been transported and then lying in the hot conditions of the desert.
 
It is interesting to note that the summer is when the push to sell more cold drinks is highest in India. And that's also when truckloads of the stuff roll across, with the "soft drinks" undergoing a fair amount of exposure to extremely hot weather, which incidentally is one more issue with aspartame. You see, as temperature changes, aspartame changes its chemical composition, radically. So, that, as well as a few other reasons prompted me to file a fairly simple RTI (Right to Information) Application to the Ministry of Processed Foods in Delhi. Again, very close to where I live, walking distance actually.
 
Within a few days of my filing an RTI application with the Ministry of Processed Foods here in Delhi, even before I've got a formal response from them, I have received:
 
1) Phone calls from a PR company claiming to represent a company making a diet soft drink, lately advertising a lot as "University of this and that".
 
2) Veiled threats on social media from unknown entities whose pages on carbonated waters I have joined and commented on.
 
3) The usual bunch of evasive non-RTI type responses from the Ministry which are designed to deflect all but the most hardcore of RTI applicants.
 
4) And most interestingly, a huge collection of unasked for literature on the benefits of aspartame, AND a hamper full of soft drinks as a gift from somebody who did not leave a visiting card.
 
Aspartame started life as a new chemical warfare agent developed and used by the United States Armed Forces. It is apparently now an agent for infiltrating the Indian food chain. My series of RTI applications with the Government of India is going to try to find out how something like this became a legalised food component.
 
Meanwhile, it would be interesting to start getting certification from our halwais and bakeries on whether they use sugar or aspartame or other branded sweeteners that are actually carcinogenic chemicals, since we already knows what goes into our Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola, Diet and otherwise. It would also be interesting to ask our cricketers and others who endorse these soft drinks on what their families and children drink. I know-I once had this discussion with Kapil Dev, in the days when he used to endorse Thums Up-and he hasn't endorsed a cold drink since.

User

COMMENTS

Rich Murray

5 years ago

Aspartame is indeed 11% methanol (wood alcohol), which the human body
quickly turns into formaldehyde via the ADH enzyme, concentrated in
many tissues: Rich Murray 2011.09.19

Aspartame is indeed 11% methanol (wood alcohol), which the human body
quickly turns into formaldehyde via the ADH enzyme, concentrated in
many tissues: liver, kidney, brain, retina, skin, prostate, breast,
womb, muscle -- forming cumulative micro lesions and a wide variety of
symptoms.

Other methanol (formaldehyde) sources include wood and tobacco smoke,
dark wines and liquors, fruits and vegetables heated in sealed metal
and glass containers, and aspartame, as well as a variety of products
ranging from medicines to new carpet, drapes, and furniture to mobile
homes.

People vary enormously in individual vulnerability.

Folic acid can protect many people.

See while-science-sleeps.com/references/pdf/586
Prof. (retired) Woodrow C. Monte.


Amid health fears, Diet Coke sweetener [aspartame] in safety
spotlight, Sean Poulter, UK Daily Mail 2011.05.27, 141 comments:
Rich Murray 2011.05.30
http://rmforall.blogspot.com/2011/05/ami...
http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/asp...

Stephen Fox

5 years ago

I think this is a brilliant and commendable article, with an overview of what these destructive corporations really do in India, but the worse goes unchecked: AJINOMOTO, the world's largest maker of neurotoxic food additives, MSG and Aspartame.

Please read this article:
http://www.wnho.net/recipe_for_death.htm

Think what a great thing would be achieved if your Health Minister banned aspartame containing drinks! It would be courageous and beneficial, and actually there is a precedent: Dr. Sripati Chandrasekhar, many years ago in the 70's, did precisely this, banning Coca Cola and Pepsi for about 7 years, and then they bribed their way back into India with the next Health Minister.

I would welcome correspondence in this regard from those who wish to get rid of aspartame throughout India, so I include my personal email here:

Stephen@santafefineart.com

We have tried both in Hawaii and in my home state of New Mexico, to ban aspartame through legislative means and through administrative means, but the lobbyists kill such efforts by the same kind of illegal threats experienced by the author of this article!

Stephen Fox
Founder, New Millennium Fine Art
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Alex

5 years ago

Very well researched and written article.

I hope many people read this and wake up.

malq

5 years ago

After the usual run-around, I finally got a definitive answer on the status of aspartame in India, and it is shocking. There has been absolutely no risk analysis of any sort by any Government department on aspartame in India.

Vide her letter No. Dy. No. L-257/Dir (M) FSSAI/2011 dtd the 10th of May 2011, Ms. Sumita Mukherjee, the Director & CPIO of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), which is a statutory regulatory body under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, has stated emphatically and clearly that risk analysis on aspartame has not been carried out.

How, then, did the Ministry of Food processing as well as the other authorities, including Customs & Central Excise, even permit this product in India?

RAJIV AHUJA

5 years ago

Thanks 4 sharing this piece of information which is vital to most of the health of us Indians.Looks like Baba Ramdevji who was against the cola companies was right.

REPLY

malq

In Reply to RAJIV AHUJA 5 years ago

Thank you for writing in. Not just Baba Ramdev, but also the result of tests in Europe and India on the subject, prove that we need to move with caution on aspartame or similar "amino sweet" "taste enhancers" or "artificial nature like sweeteners" in India.

Shubha

5 years ago

It is not just ASPARTAME in soft drinks/processed food/fast food that is harmful but also High Fructose Corn Syrup, Food colouring, and Food additives.

Drinking high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), the main ingredient in most soft drinks throughout the world, increases your triglyceride levels and your LDL (bad) cholesterol. HFCS has replaced table sugar in most of the products as it is not only cheaper to make, it is also sweeter. HFCS have been linked to the rampant epidemics of obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome in USA. Since Indians are genetically prone to Diabetes, we need to be aware of HFCS.
Food dyes are one of the most widely used and dangerous additives, especially in kids foods -- that parents don't think twice about giving their children rainbow- colored candies ,cereal or fluorescent blue "juice," They are linked to health issues ranging from cancer and hyperactivity to allergy-like reactions. The artificial brown coloring is made by reacting corn sugar with ammonia and sulfites under high pressures and at high temperatures. This produces the chemicals 2-methylimidazole and 4-methylimidazole, which have been found to cause lung, liver and thyroid cancer in lab rats and mice.

Many food additives have been studied and linked to various diseases. Here’s a list of some of the most medically questionable and harmful additives in everyday foods:
1.Sodium nitrite
2.BHA & BHT
3.Propyl gallate
4.Monosodium glutamate
5.Trans fats
6.Aspartame
7.Acesulfame-K
8.Food colorings (Blue, Red, Green, Yellow)
9.Olestra
10.Potassium bromate
11.White sugar
12.Sodium chloride (salt)

We Indians need to be aware of the harm the fast/processed food industry poses and get back to our healthy way of cooking at HOME.

REPLY

malq

In Reply to Shubha 5 years ago

Thank you for writing in. If more of us just wrote to the Ministry of Food Processing, then they might listen, and do something, too.

Shubha

In Reply to malq 5 years ago

Fat chance...they won't bother looking in to it. There is a huge number of websites/blogs/organisation voicing their views against the fast food, soft drink & processed food industry in the USA, they hv'nt done any thing about it. Do u think our Netas will do something about it?? Probably we need another Anna Hazare to fight this!!!!

Sunil Arora

5 years ago

Readers may also find this interesting. Involves children hence important

http://www.psfk.com/2011/04/unrestricted...

Rich Murray

5 years ago

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20886...

Am J Ind Med. 2010 Sep 30. [Epub ahead of print]
Aspartame administered in feed, beginning prenatally through life span,
induces cancers of the liver and lung in male Swiss mice.
Soffritti M, Belpoggi F, Manservigi M, Tibaldi E, Lauriola M, Falcioni L, Bua L.
Cesare Maltoni Cancer Research Center, Ramazzini Institute,
Bentivoglio, Bologna, Italy.
Morando Soffritti MD,
Fiorella Belpoggi DBS,
Marco Manservigi DBS,
Eva Tibaldi DBS,
Michelina Lauriola PhD,
Laura Falcioni DVM,
Luciano Bua MD
Article first published online: 30 SEP 2010
DOI: 10.1002/ajim.20896
Copyright © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

Rich Murray

5 years ago

careful expert lifetime study on mice shows liver and lung cancers
from aspartame, M Soffritti et al, Ramazzini Institute, Italy, checked
by US National Toxicology Program experts, confirms many previous
studies from 2001 on: Rich Murray 2011.02.27
http://rmforall.blogspot.com/2011_02_01_...
Sunday, February 27, 2011
[ at end of each long page, click on Older Posts ]
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/aspartameN...
[you may have to Copy and Paste URLs into your browser]
_______________________________________________

"CONCLUSIONS

The present study demonstrates for the first time that APM administered
in feed to Swiss mice at doses of 32,000, 16,000, 8,000, 2,000, or 0
ppm, starting the dietary exposure on day 12 of gestation and lasting
until death, induces significant dose-related increases of
hepatocellular carcinomas (P<0.01) and of alveolar/bronchiolar
carcinomas (P<0.05) in males.
In particular, the significant increased incidences of hepatocellular
carcinomas were observed at the dietary levels of 32,000 ppm (P<0.01)
and 16,000 ppm (P<0.05) and of lung alveolar/bronchiolar carcinomas at
32,000 ppm (P<0.05).
HCA and HCC (combined) resulted significantly increased (P<0.05) in the
male group treated at 16,000 ppm.
A/BA and A/BC (combined) resulted significantly increased (P<0.05) in
the male group treated at 32,000 ppm.
A significant dose-related trend (P<0.05) was also observed.

Given that APM is completely metabolized in the gastrointestinal tract
to phenylalanine, aspartic acid, and methanol, it may be concluded
that the observed carcinogenic effects were caused not by APM itself
but rather by its metabolites.

In particular, it cannot be disregarded that the conversion of APM
methanol into formaldehyde in the liver may result in a generation of
formaldehyde adducts [Trocho et al., 1998], which could explain the
plausibility of hepatocarcinogenic effects of APM in male mice.

The fact that females did not develop a significantly increased
incidence of liver tumors may be explained by the gender resistance,
as already reported.

On the basis of these results, together with previous carcinogenicity
bioassays conducted on rats in our laboratories, APM should be
considered a multiple site, transspecies carcinogenic agent.

A re-evaluation of the current regulations on APM remains, in our
opinion, urgent'

[ More... ]

REPLY

malq

In Reply to Rich Murray 5 years ago

Thank you for writing in.

Barbara Metzler

5 years ago

More than 20 years ago, when my daughter was in her early 20's and studying for a Master's Degree, she noticed that she was experiencing bizarre symptoms that were quite alarming.This truly bright girl realized that she was becoming very confused. In addition to her intellectual deterioration and drastic personality change, she developed epileptic-type seizures, and she began to lose her vision in both eyes.

She also began having severe headaches, panic attacks, tremors, profound exhaustion, insomnia, suicidal thoughts and numerous other problems including joint pains.

My daughter consulted a neurologist, and he told her that she had temporal lobe epilepsy. He began treating her with medication, but the medication didn't work, because the doctor was wrong in his diagnosis and he was treating her for a condition she didn't have! What she really had was ASPARTAME -- POISONING/TOXICITY!
I had heard about Dr. H. J. Roberts (Florida), so I contacted him and he confirmed what I suspected - that she was suffering from a reaction to the artificial sweetener in diet soda, even though she drank only 1 can a day. My daughter owes her life to Dr. Roberts, because thanks to him, she stopped drinking diet soda, and gradually, every one of her problems disappeared. Today, she is a successful computer programmer and financial analyst.
To follow up, my daughter went to Boston for special studies on her brain, and the doctors at the Clinical Research Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology confirmed that it was the aspartame that had made her so sick. They said that she had been totally misdiagnosed by the neurologist and that she did not have temporal lobe epilepsy at all. She also saw a highly-respected ophthalmologist who explained why her vision loss was due to aspartame.

REPLY

malq

In Reply to Barbara Metzler 5 years ago

Thank you for writing in. Awareness on the dangers of aspartame is still low in India, though movement against groundwater depletion/destruction is picking up, and so all details appreciated. Especially legal precedents, for example, if any.

malq

5 years ago

More on aspartame here:-

http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/asp...

This research by a Kerala University on the subject has obviously not been considered by the Ministry of food Processing in India.

dev golchha

5 years ago

its been an informative article and really insightful. I am touched with the point of discussion when everybody else is busy satiating their thirst(both real and reel, IN THE FORM OF ENDORSING SUCH BRANDS).
Keep up the good work and carry it forward to broader extent.

REPLY

Malq

In Reply to dev golchha 5 years ago

Thank you for writing in. Please spread the word. Especially to Rahul Gandhi.

B V KRISHNAN

5 years ago

Congrats to Monelife for taking up yet another good cause in public interest - while the Govt is quite ready to protect the culprits! There is one more side to the Cola-Pepsi agenda. Both Pepsico and Coca Cola company are exploiting the groundwater resouces of the country in an exhorbitant way to feed their behamouth factories producing millions of cases of cola every day. Remember "Plachimada" where the local people had to take up the cudgels against the cola giant for ruining their ground water sources! I am all for a total BAN on all kinds of soft drinks. Please let me know how I can help.

There is one more thing: Recently I was looking for a substitute for sugar in order to reduce my sugar intake. And what did I find? Most of the brands masquerading as "Sugar Free" have aspartame as a major ingredient in them! How can the govt permit such cancerogenous stuff to be sold in the market?

REPLY

Ajit Misquitta

In Reply to B V KRISHNAN 5 years ago

Among the best sweeteners available in the market today I have found stevia in tablet form the best alternative as it is made from completely natural sources and very convenient to carry.

Malq

In Reply to B V KRISHNAN 5 years ago

Thank you for writing in. You can help by spreading the word, forwarding this article and filing rti applications on the subject. In addition, like tobacco, make this an electoral issue.

DNR

5 years ago

Sincerely appreciating your good work. Well done. It is shame on the part of our rulers (includng central and state governments) who are ruining this country by allowing these culprit companies. Some say that Prime Minister of our country is an honest man surrounded with dishonest people. I totally disagree. Including PM and his coterie team are dacoits of this country. In fact, they are the lootere of this country by causing real damage to our citizens. Our country does not require these corrupt politicians. We should dethrone them by kicking them out of the parliament.

REPLY

B V KRISHNAN

In Reply to DNR 5 years ago

DNR - Even if you stove a coca cola bottle right under the nose of Mr.Singh, he will pretend not to see and look the other way? He is an exponent of "see no evil-say no evil" right?

PS

In Reply to B V KRISHNAN 5 years ago

Scandals galore. Telecom, Space, Food, Adarsh, CWG.....Merger of Air India with Indian Airlines has been a disaster but who cares? Praful Patel instead of being held responsible stands promoted. Country has seen maximum inflation during the rule of a PM who is an economist by qualification! Whenever corruption is exposed our PM conveniently shifts the blame to the Minister or official. What is the point in having an honest PM presiding over a bunch of crooks and robbers. As a leader is he not responsible for the action of his ministers? Let him take basic lesson in Law and understand the concept of Vicarious Liability. If he had any iota of conscience he would have quit by now.

B V KRISHNAN

In Reply to PS 5 years ago

Mr. Man Mohan Singh will go down as the weakest prime minister India ever had. If you take a balance sheet of his tenure, you will find several lakh crores loss to the nation on the debit side, and what is there on the credit side? A dubious neuclear deal in which he toed the line of his real masters, viz. the US govt!

sharad

5 years ago

I remember Gopi Pulelachand, the badminton star refused to endorse coke, since he does not drink the same.
He remains unsung and poorer by few millions.

REPLY

malq

In Reply to sharad 5 years ago

Well, hoprefully some day soon we will have a situation where actors and cricketers will take a balanced view on endorsing soft drinks, as further information keeps coming out.

We are listening!

Solve the equation and enter in the Captcha field.
  Loading...
Close

To continue


Please
Sign Up or Sign In
with

Email
Close

To continue


Please
Sign Up or Sign In
with

Email

BUY NOW

Moneylife Magazine
Fiercely independent and pro-consumer information on personal finance
Stockletters in 3 Flavours
Outstanding research that beats mutual funds year after year
MSSN: Complete Online Financial Advisory
(Includes Moneylife Magazine and Lion Stockletter)