“How difficult it is to escape the dread consequences of a regime's calculated and incessant propaganda ... how useless it was even to try to make contact with a mind which had become warped and for whom the facts of life had become what Hitler and Goebbels, with their cynical disregard for the truth, said they were." -- William Shirer, The Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich
NutraFear and NutraLoathing in Augusta, GA
Mr. X of Augusta, Georgia is unable to discuss an incident inside a local processing plant because he signed a secrecy oath. His silence has nothing to do with protecting state secrets or the "sources and methods" of the CIA. He was coerced into signing the agreement because the manufacturer of a common "food additive" does not want the public to know it is highly toxic.
Mr. X made the fatal error of walking into Augusta's Nutrasweet plant "without a 'space suit,'" says Betty Martini, an anti-aspartame activist in Atlanta. (Workers at the plant wear protective clothing.) "It almost completely destroyed his lungs, A man who entered the plant with him - also without a suit - dropped dead."
The company attempted to discredit Mr. X by publicly dismissing the death as alcohol-related. Nutrasweet executives offered him a settlement if he agreed to sign the secrecy agreement. He turned them down.
He was shadowed for two years by corporate spies.
He went to a local television station. A pair of reporters taped the interview.
"A week later the reporters were fired and Nutrasweet somehow obtained the tapes." Martini recalls. Mr. X signed the secrecy agreement "to prevent the persecution of friends at the plant. He has little lung function left and probably won't live long."1
"We're used to stories like this," she says with a shrug. The company often contracts work to local engineers to spare it the public embarrassment of admitting there is a high mortality rate among employees. Trucks idling up with incoming cargo do not dock to unload; an employee drives the trucks in. Visitors to the complex must don protective clothing to avoid contact with lethal waste.
"I was lecturing one afternoon on Nutrasweet," Martini recalls, "and a gentleman in the audience stood up and said he had prepared legal papers for a man who was killed at the plant. 'The papers are sealed,' he told me, 'I can't find anything out and it does no good to ask. 'That product is a poison.' he said."2
The aspartame molecule has three components: aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methanol – amino acids, petrochemicals. "It is a powerful metabolic poison," Martini says, "a witches brew of breakdown products. The methanol – wood alcohol – converts to formaldehyde and eventually formic acid (ant sting poison). The breakdown product of diketopiperazine, DKP, is a tumor agent."
Monsanto spokesmen swear the sweetener is no more toxic than a glass of orange juice: "The overwhelming body of scientific evidence establishes that aspartame is not associated with side effects. Specific research has been conducted in each of these areas. The results support the safety of Nutrasweet brand sweetener," the company boasts.3 The company fails to mention that it funded that body of evidence. Independent studies have found aspartame to be a poison.
On September 13, 1995, a congressional environmental committee reported that of all food additive complaints filed with the FDA, "more than 95 percent have been about two products: the sweetener aspartame and sulfite preservatives. No firm evidence exists to prove that aspartame actually causes many adverse reactions."4 The second statement disregards the vast majority of independent studies.
NutraDeath Comes for Santiago
Besides, how else to account for the Niagara of complaints pouring into the FDA, the blindness, neurological symptoms, the abrupt rise in chronic fatigue, headaches and memory loss - the swollen desk reference of adverse reactions associated with aspartame?
The most extreme case histories are warning flares in the night, sporadically reported by the corporate press. A rare exception was Janet Soto of Brooksville, Florida, who recently appeared on a local television news program to accuse the Nutrasweet Co. of responsibility for her father-in-law's gradual decline and death.
The victim, Santiago "Chago" Echiverria, struggled with diabetes for 15-20 years. Upon his retirement from the railroad, he moved from Ashtabula, Ohio, to Puerto Rico, where Echiverria continued his habitual swigging of diet-cola and copious intake of coffee sweetened with Equal. When Soto received word of Echiverria's death in June of 1994, she and her husband made arrangements to fly to Puerto Rico for the wake.
The funeral director informed them that a surfeit of formaldehyde in the body made it necessary to close the casket.
The putrid chemical was seeping through the cadaver's skin.
"His sister, Minerva Ortiz and Nydia Colon, told me that the funeral director said he had never seen a body deteriorate as quickly, and was puzzled by the formaldehyde content even before embalming," Soto says.5
A registered nurse in Florida tells her own grim horror story. Formaldehyde poisoning from heavy aspartame use was diagnosed as the cause of death of one of her patients. A physician at the hospital learned that the patient had stored cases of diet drinks in his garage. The deceased was poisoned by the petrochemical byproducts of heated aspartame released in the cola.6
"The formaldehyde stores in fat cells," Martini explains. "Some undertakers tell me that bodies sometimes come to them reeking of formaldehyde."
Aspartame is a drug. It interacts with other drugs, alters dopamine levels and can cause birth defects. It has been known to trigger seizures. Nevertheless, as the tobacco industry soft-peddles the hazards of smoking, so do NutraSweet executives insist that aspartame are safely absorbed by the body. But intake standard comparisons alone write another commentary: The EPA safety standard for methanol intake is 7.8 mg. a day. A liter of diet soft drink contains 550 mg. of aspartame, 55 mg. of methanol.7
The late Dr. Morgan Raiford, a specialist in methanol toxicity, circulated a fact sheet in l987 deploring the sweetener's adverse effects on eyesight and the central nervous system. He found "toxic reactions in the human visual pathway, and we are beginning to observe tragic damage to the optic nerve, blindness, partial to total optic nerve atrophy. Once this destructive process has developed there is no visual restoration." (Mission Possible refers patients going blind on aspartame to the National Eye Research Foundation – 1 800-621-2258 – a diagnostic lab equipped to detect toxic reactions to methanol.) He described a second side-effect "related to phenylalanine levels in the central nervous system.... Over the past year the writer has observed the fact that any portion of the central nervous system can and is affected." The chemical feast caused "sensations of dullness of the intellect, visual shadows, evidence of word structure reversing and some hearing impairment. This can and will in time cause problems in learning."
Laboratory rats turn their noses up to any food with aspartame in it. Yet every single morning, millions wake up to a steaming cup of coffee, RNA derivatives and methanol.
Pass the ant poison. Splash of formic acid?
1) Betty Martini, Mission Possible, private correspondence with author, July 9, 1996.
2) Betty Martini, correspondence with author, July 9, 1996.
3) Company public relations release.
4) Committee for the National Institute for the Environment, "Food Additive Regulations: A Chronology," Congressional Research Service, Updated Version, September 13, 1995.
5) Janet Soto, letter to Martini, April 3, 1995.
7) Dr. H.J. Roberts in a letter to Martini. Also see, H.J. Roberts, Nutrasweet, is it Safe? Charles Press.