fizzy carbonated cola with straw co2

Reliable aspartame study

Sir, In his recent letter about aspartame, Robert Peterson correctly observed ‘it is critical the public is provided with reliable science-based information regarding the safety and utility of low-calorie sweeteners’. It is therefore unfortunate that this is precisely what the European Food Safety Authority failed to provide in its December 2013 assessment of aspartame.

In our recent paper Dr Dawson and I demonstrated that EFSA’s treatment was profoundly unreliable because the benchmarks against which it judged studies that provided prima facie evidence of risks were substantially more demanding that the benchmarks against which reassuring studies were judged. If EFSA is to provide a reliable science-based assessment of aspartame, it will have to conduct a fresh assessment, and one that is free of the bias that characterised its 2013 assessment.

Erik Millstone, professor emeritus, University of Sussex

Language problem

Sir, I was interested to read Karen Bird’s piece on the relevance of the term ‘biodegradable’. The fundamental issue lies with a lack of common consumer understanding of the meaning of sustainability-related terms.

Take ‘compostable’ for example. Most consumers will have a bucolic image of tossing their used packaging on to the compost heap with the potato peelings - but the reality is most compostable packaging needs a controlled industrial process.

Material producers, converters, manufacturers and retailers must come together to create a simple system, a limited number of materials and a universal icon or nomenclature framework that’s easy to understand and act on.

Andy Capper, co-founder and creative director, Echo

Premium perceptions

Sir, BBC News recently reported Waitrose shoppers’ dismay on learning the Wollaton branch is to be replaced by a Lidl. While it’s easy to make assumptions, we should challenge conventional wisdom over what constitutes premium or economy shoppers.

A clear trend towards ‘save and splurge’ consumer behaviour has been seen across vertical markets, most notably travel. Grocery is no different.

The metrics bear this out. We measured the retail journeys of 165,000 UK shoppers from January 2017 and April 2019: over this period, the shared ­proportion of Aldi and Waitrose customers grew from 1.4% to a 5.7% high - an increase of over 300%. Waitrose and Sainsbury’s shared customer base dropped by just over 11%.

Conrad Poulson, CEO, Huq