Monthly Archives: February 2010

Aspartame now known as AminoSweet

When I started to see the various stories and alerts roll in saying that Ajinomoto had re-branded aspartame as AminoSweet, my first thought was Ajinomoto- who’s that? The next was concern that consumers might be duped into consuming aspartame again after finally coming to the realization that it is just not good for you.

The PR spin on this one is that, “Ajinomoto believes that the time is right to remind the industry that aspartame tastes just like sugar, and that it’s made from amino acids – the building blocks of protein that are abundant in our diet.”

In other words, they have figured out that consumers are wising up to the fact that their product may be harmful. They’ve decided to switch their name in an attempt to avoid the ill effects of past bad press and other attacks on their reputation (boo hoo!) and convince people anew to buy items containing their chemical concoction.

Ajinomoto doesn’t just say that their product is safe, they actually call it healthy! I don’t know how they dare say it’s beneficial, but they do. Claims on their web site include that it it can help you achieve a healthy diet, that its role in this area is increasingly important, it’s tooth friendly. Apparently it does not bring anything new into your diet because it’s “just like those found in everyday foods such as meat, fish, cheese, eggs and milk” and is digested by the body the same way as other proteins. To that I saw pfffffht.

Aspartame is about as far away as one can get from a healthy ingredient, simple construction or not. The fact that it is “constructed” and not found in nature should be the first red flag. Then consider that aspartame accounts for over 75 percent of the adverse reactions to food additives reported to the FDA. Combine this with studies showing aspartame as carcinogenic, the possibility it is an immune system disrupter, responsible for seizures, vision loss, etc. and you can easily see why consumers are shying away from their product. There are other reasons that aspartame has been under attack since the 70s too, and the story includes corrupt FDA officials, fabricated lab results, and more.

(Before people bring it up, I do realize that there are studies showing that it is OK  to consume aspartame in moderation. It’s sometimes said that it’s one of the most studied products in history. However, I look at this similar to other things the FDA has approved for use that are also harmful, such as BPA, mercury, fluouride, etc . When you add in the history behind the FDA approval, and look at how many of the positive studies have industry ties,  I am just not comfortable with the product.)

Add to this that I know lots of people that have problems with aspartame, myself included. Years ago before I stopped consuming soda, every time I had a drink containing it I got a headache. Other diet products, or other sodas from the same manufacturer were not a problem for me, just the ones containing aspartame. There are many such stories, and even some books, that lay it all out.  It seems particularly harmful when given to kids (which is probably why it is banned from children’s products in Europe).

And a final minor point, but as far as the actual name goes from a marketing standpoint, I disagree with their contention the name AminoSweet is either appealing or memorable. It’s not like the average person even knows what an amino acid is, let alone considers it a positive thing.  I think they’re overestimating their audience’s ability to make that association. And it might become memorable to those downing their several diet soft drinks a day, but that’s only if their memories aren’t compromised by the affects of the ever-so-healthy protein!

Let’s hope the mainstream media decides to inform consumers of this name change so people can continue to make educated decisions.


Ahimsa is a Sanskrit word that means “to do no harm”. I’d like to think that I live by this concept, but what I’ve determined is while I’m doing a good job of making sure cruelty doesn’t touch my plate, I’ve been doing a poor job of consistently applying this principle to other spheres of my life.

As I read recently, “Ahimsa or non-injury means entire abstinence from causing any pain or harm whatsoever to any living creature, either by thought, word, or deed. Non-injury requires a harmless mind, mouth, and hand.”

My vegan status goes a long way towards the avoidance of killing other living beings, however there are other ways to inflict harm. My consideration needs to extend to treatment of others as well. I seem to have little problems exhibiting willpower when it comes to food, but I need to gain some mastery over my mind and mouth. Unkind or villifying behaviour, things like dishonesty, hate and gossip, are all incompatible with the ideal.

In order to become more consistent with what I believe, I’m going to try my best to improve in this area– focus in on the positive and try to avoid the negative thoughts and speech. I’ve got some ideas on why I slip into injurious behaviours and need to consciously make an effort to cut back and quit.

Self improvement is never ending, a vast continuum.

Drink carton recycling

We buy  a lot of beverages that come in cardboard containers. For some reason milk alternatives (soy, hemp, almond, rice, etc.) rarely come in plastic or glass like cow milk does, and instead come in boxes similar to those used for juice. At our previous residence they took these types of boxes along with the rest of the recycling, but when we moved here just a few miles away, to my surprise they did not.

Not wanting to just throw the containers away, I collected them and hauled them to the local recycling center, figuring our city just didn’t want to handle them curbside. Despite the fact that the bin says right on it not to throw in containers that are coated, lined, etc. one of the workers told me that it was OK to put them in there. For over a year I’d been hauling the containers there on a regular basis and dumping them in the bin, somewhat stealthily at times since I still wasn’t sure if they belonged in there or not.

After doing some research into shelf stable products recently, I’ve found that they most definitely do not belong in with the rest of the cardboard! The boxes used for liquids are also known as aseptics. (Some people call them Tetra Paks, as that’s the most recognizable brand.) Aseptics are made from several layers of different materials – including paper, plastics and metals – and are thus somewhat harder to recycle.  See diagram.

Aseptic containers, and other coated or lined containers like those used for juice,  must go through a completely different processing method called hydrapulping. Hydrapulping facilities are rare and thus the packages are rarely recycled. My main go-to for locating recycling facilities,, shows no place in our state that will take these containers. Only 26 U.S. states have access to a facility that can handle them.

As of last week I started throwing the containers away and I cannot believe how much our trash load has increased as a result! I really, really don’t want to send them to the landfill but feel I don’t have a choice. I would avoid buying those boxes outright if possible, but some of the products we purchase don’t come any other way and are staples in our diet.

There are efforts underway to expand recycling for these types of containers. The Carton Council and four leading carton manufacturers have teamed up to improve U.S. availability. Last year Tropicana joined forces with Waste Management to increase the recycling opportunities for their boxes. I’m hopeful that it will happen quickly so we’ll soon have a proper way to recycle our drink containers.  Countries like Canada and Germany are already doing it well; there’s no reason we can’t too.