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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-16961: Miles Briggs (Lothian)

Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

Date lodged: 30 May 2018

To ask the Scottish Government what analysis it has carried out of the number of people in Scotland with phenylketonuria who are unable to consume the artificial sweetener, aspartame, and whether it has discussed with (a) the UK Government and (b) HM Revenue and Customs the impact on this group of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy.

Answered by: Aileen Campbell 13 June 2018

Following the announcement by the UK Government of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy, many drinks manufacturers completed programmes to reformulate sugary drinks to lower or zero sugar alternatives. I understand that much of this reformulation used sucralose or stevia, both sweeteners that can be safely consumed by people with phenylketonuria (PKU).

Scottish Government officials have had discussions with HM Treasury and HM Revenue and Customs about the Soft Drinks Industry Levy but the impact of those with PKU was not raised in those discussions.

The Scottish Government takes this condition seriously which is why at around 5 days old, babies are offered new-born blood spot screening to check if they have PKU or a number of other conditions. If PKU is confirmed, treatment will be given‎ straight away to reduce the risk of serious complications.


It is important that accurate labelling helps those with PKU make informed choices about their food and drink. I am advised by Food Standards Scotland that the only sweeteners that can break down to form phenylalanine are aspartame (E 951) or the salt of aspartame acesulfame (E 962). Under the food information legislation (Reg 1169/2011) any product containing these sweeteners are required to state on the label either:


• ‘contains aspartame (a source of phenylalanine)’ on the label if aspartame/ aspartame-acesulfame salt is designated in the list of ingredients only by their E number or,


• ‘contains a source of phenylalanine’ in cases where aspartame/aspartame-acesulfame salt is designated in the list of ingredients by their specific name.


The sweetener advantame (E 969) only produces very small amounts of phenylalanine and so does not need the phenylalanine labelling. This is as the European Food Safety Authority concluded “for a phenylketonuric child, the additional phenylalanine intake expected from ingestion of advantame-containing foods and beverages would represent a relatively small increment in the exposure to phenylalanine.