EFSA said it would push back the deadline for its full re-evaluation from May to November 2013.
The food safety body received more than 200 comments during the online phase of its consultation on the safety of aspartame, following publication of its draft scientific opinion on the sweetener in January. Public consultation on aspartame's safety concluded with a public meeting held last month, and EFSA says it needs more time to consider feedback, which it said included new information.
"From the comments received, experts on EFSA’s Scientific Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources Added to Food (ANS Panel) have identified aspects of their draft opinion and key steps in their scientific approach that they would like to clarify further, including the expression of uncertainties, before finalising their conclusions," EFSA said in a statement. "This will ensure that EFSA’s scientific advice fully integrates information received and that those with an interest in this work will be able to easily understand how the Panel derived its conclusions."
It said that comments included issues such as how EFSA’s experts select studies for its risk assessments, the safety of the metabolites of aspartame and how best to express uncertainties highlighted in the draft opinion.
The draft opinion was based on a review of more than 600 studies, and again found that current consumption levels were safe for the general population.
The only group for whom EFSA considered aspartame consumption to be risky was for those with phenylketonuria, characterised by an inability to break down the amino acid phenylalanine, which is present in aspartame as well as a wide variety of other foods.