Ajinomoto has defended its artificial sweetener product aspartame, of which the Japan-based food group is the largest supplier, and questioned the potential of natural sweetener stevia.
Critics have long claimed that aspartame is associated with numerous health risks. Retailers, including the UK’s Marks and Spencer and South Africa’s Woolworths Holdings, have removed aspartame from their own-label lines in recent years.
Meanwhile, Asda, the UK arm of Wal-Mart, has been embroiled in a three-year legal dispute with Ajinomoto over the artificial sweetener. In 2007, Ajinomoto sued Asda after the retailer publicised a “no-hidden nasties” guarantee to promote its removal of artificial colours and flavours from its own-brand food and soft drinks.
Last year, a UK court dismissed Ajinomoto’s lawsuit that sought to stop Asda describing aspartame as a “nasty”.
However, this June, the ingredients firm said an appeal “effectively reversed” the earlier ruling, which enabled the company to pursue its case to “protect the reputation of aspartame”.