The other day I wrote about a spa using bird poop in facials, and at the end of the discussion I joked about what would be the next use of poop. At the time, I was unaware of a breaking news story about diet colas that is somewhat related. (Are you getting scared yet?)
Recently the patent details for the artificial sweetener aspartame became available online, and well, it’s made with a certain byproduct. (Are you sure you want to keep reading? It might get even worse.) Obviously it’s an artificial sweetener, which has certain connotations, but there’s more than you’d expect. Some versions of aspartame are made by harvesting the protein waste (i.e., poop) of genetically modified E. coli bacteria, then adding methanol to it. (On a side note, how someone invented this process is beyond my imagination, so I looked it up. In 1965 a chemist was trying to create an anti-ulcer drug, and while generating a hormone for it, he licked his finger and accidentally discovered the sweet taste of aspartame. Go figure…)
Aspartame is one of the most common artificial sweeteners, and it’s sold under the brand names NutraSweet® and Equal®. It’s used because it’s about 200 times sweeter than table sugar, so less can be used, which lowers the calories in the food or beverage. It is used in thousands of different food products. The FDA maintains that it is completely safe.
It may be safe, but this is one of the those things that I kinda wish I didn’t know…