AMSTERDAM (AP) -- The European Food Safety Authority has found that the artificial sweetener aspartame is safe for people to consume at the levels currently used in diet soft drinks.
After conducting a major review of evidence, the agency said Tuesday it has ruled out any "potential risk of aspartame causing damage to genes and inducing cancer."
The finding will be welcome news to Coca Cola Co., which recently launched an advertising campaign to dispel fears about Diet Coke after other studies showed that aspartame might be dangerous, leading to a fall in sales.
Aspartame, the sweetener used in Diet Coke, is also known under the brand name NutraSweet.
The ESFA, the European Union's food risk assessment agency, is based in Parma, Italy.
MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) -- Uruguay's plan to set up a legal, regulated marijuana market has reached its final legislative stage, with the Senate expected to approve the plan by late Tuesday and send it to President Jose Mujica for his signature.
Senators prepared for a long day and night of speeches after debate begins Tuesday morning. The body is dominated by Mujica's ruling Broad Front coalition, which wants to make Uruguay the world's first nation to put the government at the center of a legalized marijuana trade.
Congress' lower house already passed it, and the Senate rejected all proposed amendments, so Senate passage would put the law on the desk of Mujica, who is one of the plan's biggest boosters despite saying he's never tried pot himself.
"This is a plague, just like cigarettes are a plague," Mujica told reporters recently.
Polls say two-thirds of Uruguayans oppose the plan, despite a national TV campaign and other lobbying efforts funded by billionaire currency speculator and philanthropist George Soros, whose Open Society Foundation and Drug Policy Alliance campaigned for the proposal.
Hannah Hetzer, a lobbyist for the Alliance, moved to Montevideo for the campaign, and celebrated the Senate's expected passage. "It's about time that we see a country bravely break with the failed prohibitionist model and try an innovative, more compassionate, and smarter approach," she said in a statement Monday night.
Mujica says the goal is to get organized crime out of marijuana dealing, not to promote the use of pot. The government hopes that when licensed growers, providers and users can openly trade in the drug, illegal traffickers will be denied their profits and go away.
During its hearings, the Senate Health Commission received extensive arguments from educators, psychiatrists and pharmacists urging it to back away from the plan.
Psychiatrists predicted a rise in mental illness. Pharmacists said selling pot alongside prescription drugs would harm their professional image.
Marijuana's negative impact on learning is well known, and "is related to educational failure, behavioral problems and depressive symptoms," teacher Nestor Pereira testified, representing the National Public Education Administration.
But Senate committees sent the proposal for a floor vote without changes, hoping to avoid a return trip to the lower chamber, where it passed by a single vote.
Socialist Deputy Julio Bango, who co-authored the proposal, told The Associated Press: "This is not a law to liberalize marijuana consumption, but rather to regulate it. Today there is a market dominated by drug traffickers. We want the state to dominate it."
The project includes a media campaign, launched Friday, aimed at reducing pot smoking by warning of its dangers to human health.
Uruguay's drug czar, Julio Calzada, said no pharmacist or other business will be forced to sell the drug.
Calzada said his office will have 120 days to craft regulations following adoption. Mujica pledged that his government will work through the traditional southern summer holidays to make the rules as precise as possible.
"There will be much to discuss and to work on. We'll spend the summer working. There's nothing magic about this," the president said.
As for concerns that Uruguay could become a mecca for marijuana tourism, Mujica stressed that the measure would restrict the legal sale of pot only to licensed and registered Uruguayan adults.
Marijuana grower Marcelo Vazquez told the AP he can't wait to pay taxes on the weed he's grown illegally for 20 years. After repeated police raids and arrests, he's optimistic. He has a greenhouse of marijuana plants growing outside Montevideo and is thinking about creating a business catering to licensed growers who lack space in their own homes.
"This is a huge opportunity and we have to take advantage of it," Vazquez said. "My lifelong dream has been to legally cultivate marijuana, and to live off this, to pay my taxes."
With cold weather here, the Humane Society of Missouri urges all pet owners to bring their pets inside and exercise caution when exposing pets to the cold. Pets rely on their owners to help stay warm during cold weather. As a general rule, if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your pets!
Here are some tips for caring for you pet in the winter months:
BRING YOUR PET INSIDE: Don't leave your pet outside in the cold for prolonged periods of time. Remember, thermometers might show one temperature, but wind chills can make it feel much, much colder. Limit time outdoors and be mindful of frostbite on ears, tail and feet. If you run with your dog, pay attention to cold paws and if it gets too cold, leave your pup at home. House cats should always be left indoors. It is the law in the City of St. Louis.
ACCLIMATE YOUR PET TO COLD WEATHER: If your pets spend a lot of time outdoors, make sure to introduce them gradually to dropping temperatures, rather than exposing them to the extreme cold all at once.
PROVIDE ADEQUATE SHELTER: Adequate shelter is mandated by law. If your dog lives outdoors, you must provide a well-insulated and draft-free doghouse. The opening should face south with a sturdy, flexible covering to prevent icy winds from entering. Line the floors of the shelter with straw, not hay. Towels and blankets can become damp or freeze, making the space colder.
BEWARE OF ANTIFREEZE AND ROCK SALT: Antifreeze often collects on driveways and roadways. Although it smells and tastes sweet to your pet, it is lethally poisonous. If you suspect your pet has ingested antifreeze, contact your veterinarian immediately! Deicing products like rock salt can irritate footpads. Be sure to rinse and dry your pet's feet after being outside. Pet stores often carry pet-safe ice melts that do the job and won’t harm your pets.
DRY OFF WET PETS: A wet pet is a cold pet. Towel or blow-dry your pet if he gets wet from rain or snow. Also, it is important to clean and dry paws to prevent tiny cuts and cracked pads.
PROVIDE PLENTY OF FOOD AND WATER: It takes more energy in the winter to properly regulate body temperature, so your pet needs additional calories if he spends a lot of time playing or working outdoors. Your pet is just as likely to get dehydrated in the winter as in the summer, so be sure to provide plenty of fresh water. Snow is not a substitute for water. Refill outside bowls often to prevent freezing.
CAREFULLY KEEP PETS WARM INSIDE: Keep your pets warm, dry and away from drafts while inside. Space heaters and other supplemental heat sources can burn your pet. Keep portable heaters out of reach and make sure all fireplaces have adequate screening. And, of course, never leave your pet alone with an unattended fire.
GROOM REGULARLY: Your pet needs a well-groomed coat to keep him properly insulated. Short- or coarse-haired dogs might get extra cold so consider a sweater or a coat. Long-haired dogs should have their paw hair trimmed to ease in cleaning and snow removal.
To report an animal in distress, please call the Humane Society of Missouri at (314) 647-4400. For more information on how to care for your pets during cold weather months, visit the Humane Society of Missouri website www.hsmo.org.