April 20/WASHINGTON (AP) - A federal review of a 2005 Italian study found no data to support the conclusion the sugar substitute aspartame causes cancer, a health official said Friday.

The Food and Drug Administration has not seen scientific information that would support a change in its conclusions about the safety of aspartame, said Laura Tarantino, director of the agency's Office of Food Additive Safety. In 1981, the FDA determined that aspartame was safe for use in food.

The Italian study concluded aspartame led to higher rates of lymphoma and leukemia in rats. However, the European Food Safety Authority reviewed the data and said it did not support the study's conclusions. The European agency reiterated its previously held position that the low-calorie sweetener is safe.

The FDA then conducted its own review of the study, despite not receiving additional data it had requested.

"Our conclusion, based on a comprehensive review of all data we had, is there is no evidence that aspartame is a carcinogen or any evidence to change our previous conclusion: that aspartame, the way it is used, is safe," Tarantino said. The agency plans to release its review shortly, she said.

Meanwhile, the Italian team is expected to release Monday the results of a further study of the sweetener.

Aspartame has been sold for 25 years. It is found in thousands of products, including sodas, chewing gum, dairy products and even some medicines. NutraSweet and Equal are popular brands.

Tarantino said the FDA would seek more data from researchers depending on what they present Monday.

From the April 23, 2007, Prepared Foods e-Flash