Note: the following texts were provided by Elaine Fitchpatrick and Betty Martini of MISSION POSSIBLE, an organization dedicated to the eradication of NutraSweet.

The following is a letter presented before the U.S. Senate hearings on NutraSweet. It was written by Dr. Margan B. Raiford, M.D., Ps, Msc Med. Ophthalmology (Raiford 1987):
I had the opportunity, in Atlanta, Ga., to see the effects of methyl alcohol toxicity in 1952- 1953 which resulted in visual damage to the optic nerves and retina in over 300 cases and the deaths of over 30 persons.

I examined Shannon Roth on July 7, 1986, along with several other patients [65 cases as of July 10, 1986 (Roberts 1990, page 136)]. I observed evidence of effects in her eye and the eyes of the other patients that were comparable to the effects observed in the patients who suffered methyl alcohol toxicity in 1952-1953.

There was damage in the central fibers, 225,000 of the total 137,000,000 optic nerve fibers (resulting in optic nerve atrophy) in her case, which would be comparable to that observed from patients suffering methyl alcohol toxicity. The extent of damage to these fibers would explain partial to total blindness.

. . . .

But in the kind of chronic low dose exposure to methyl alcohol experienced by Shannon Roth (in NutraSweet consumption) and other NutraSweet consumers, it is likely that they would experience the impact on the optic nerve differently in each eye.

The important point is that the damage observed in Shannon Roth's eye was identical to the damage I observed repeatedly in the eyes of individuals whose eyes have been damaged by methyl alcohol toxicity.

Raiford, Morgan B., 1987. Letter from Dr. Morgan B. Raiford to the Office of Senator Howard Metzenbaum. The statement was put in the record before the U.S. Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources, November 3, 1987 regarding "NutraSweet Health and Safety Concerns." Document # Y 4.L 11/4:S.HR6.100, page 517-518.

Roberts, H.J. 1990. "Aspartame (NutraSweetĘ):Is It Safe?" by H.J. Roberts, M.D. The Charles Press Publishers, Philadelphia, PA, c1990. Excerpt from page 91.

Dr. James Bowen, in a statement to the FDA:
Every known metabolite of aspartame is of marked or questionable toxicity and patently unsafe for human use. Methyl alcohol is metabolized to nascent formaldehyde in the eye, nervous system and other metabolically active organs. It immediately attacks and denatures the tissue structure proteins in which it is metabolized to nascent formaldehyde. This stimulates specific organ and subcellular autoimmunity which seems to be a preponderant source of the bad experiences reported by NutraSweet victims. Aspartic acid is a neuroexcitotoxin present in damaging amounts in its own right, at the ADI for aspartame. Simple logic tells one that it will vastly increase the metabolism of methyl alcohol to formaldehyde in the desinosomes of the periventricular cells of the central nervous system, thus focusing the nascent formaldehyde attack there. This corresponds well with the symptomatologies often experienced, such as Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS), bulbar palsies, neurohormonal disorders, etc. Also visual disturbances, heart palpitations, infertility and fetal loss may be traced to aspartame ingestion. The diketopiperazine issue remains totally unresolved and dangerous. The amino acids that are released by hydrolysis, from eimers and isomers that are either not sufficiently studied, or which are known substrates in undesirable pathological states such as Alzheimer's disease....

In October, l986 the Community Nutrition Institute in Washington, D.C. filed a petition with the FDA to have it banned because of its link to blindness. Dr. H.J. Roberts was quoted in an article "Consumer Group Links NutraSweet to Blindness (Chicago Sun Times, Friday, October 17, 1986):

"Of 360 patients he has diagnosed as having aspartame-related problems, Roberts said, about one-fourth had decreased vision or blindness, nearly half had severe headaches and substantial numbers had epileptic seizures, confusion or memory loss, extreme depression and marked personality change."

Here's more info about methanol from an article by Dr. Ron Austin of Norwalk, California in his newsletter Back Issues, "NutraSweet: Friend or Foe?":

One man's (Nutra) Sweet is another man's poison! ...Methanol (methyl alcohol, wood alcohol), a poisonous substance, is added as a component during the manufacture of aspartame (NutraSweet). This methanol is subsequently released within hours of consumption in the small intestine. However, in humans this process is sped up tremendously if the methanol is ingested as a free methanol such as occurs in soft drinks after storage or in other foods after being heated. Regardless as to whether this happens or not 10% of the weight of aspartame intake of an individual will be absorbed by the bloodstream as methanol within hours after consumption. Important note: Up until date there has been no therapeutic (healing) properties of this substance (methanol) and it has been considered to be a poison. The ingestion of two (2) teaspoons is considered to be deadly in humans.

...Methyl alcohol has a selective action on the optic nerve and can cause blindness, the consumption of as little as 30 ml (two teaspoons) has caused death. Methyl alcohol is used as a polar solvent for plastics, paints, and varnishes, as an antifreeze, and in the manufacture of formaldehyde and other methyl compounds such as methyl amine, methyl chloride, and methyl methacrylate. Patients may complain of lethargy (extreme tiredness), confusion, and impairment of speech, all signs of nervous system involvement. The individual may suffer leg cramps, back pain, severe headache, abdominal pain, labored breathing, vertigo and visual loss, the latter being a very important clue to making a diagnosis of this type (methanol) poisoning. In severe cases the liver, kidneys, heart and lungs show dangerous signs of degeneration.


Many of the signs and symptoms of intoxication due to methanol ingestion are not specific to methyl (wood) alcohol. For example, headache, ear buzzing, dizziness, nausea and unsteady gait (intoxicated or drunk type of walking), gastrointestinal disturbances, weakness, vertigo, chills, memory lapses, numbness and shooting pains in the lower extremities, hands and forearms, behavioral disturbances and neuritis. The most distinctive signs and symptoms of this type of poisoning in humans are the various visual disturbances such as: misty vision, progressive contraction of the visual fields (tunnel vision) mist before the eyes, blurring of vision and indistinct vision."
And they are having a great deal of problems with methanol even in the plants. Dr. Austin quotes one case:
A 21 year old non-drinking male who had been exposed daily to the fine dust of aspartame (NutraSweet) at the packaging plant he had been working at for over one year, was complaining of blurred vision, headaches, dizziness, and depression before his sudden death. An autopsy revealed liver, kidneys, heart and lungs degeneration (disease). The damage to the heart was as if the man had been an alcoholic between the ages of 30 and 50 and up to 50% of his food intake for over a 10 to 15 year period was alcohol. Mind you, he was a 21 year old non-drinker!! But I only have one soft drink daily with NutraSweet, surely that can't kill me, right?

Merck Index, Tenth Edition:

5816: Methanol: Methyl alcohol..wood alcohol... "Poisoning may occur from ingestion, inhalation or percutaneous absorption. Acute Effects: Headache, fatigue, nausea, visual impairment or complete blindness (may be permanently), acidosis, convulsions..respiratory failure, death. Death from ingestion of less than 30 ml. has been reported. ... Industrial solvent: Raw material for making formaldehyde and methyl esters of organic and inorganic acids ...

Fundamentals of Chemistry by Jean Bogert, eighth edition, p 286:

"Methyl Alcohol or "wood alcohol" taken internally is a dangerous poison. It paralyzes the optic nerve and as little as 10 cc may cause blindness. Its use as a solvent in industries causes a hazard for workmen unless forced ventilation is installed, since continual breathing of the vapors, may result in blindness. A similar hazard exists when it is used as an antifreeze agent in automobile radiators, since it is vaporized by engine heat and the toxic vapor may be swept back into the car. Methyl (wood) alcohol is sometimes present in improperly prepared distilled liquors and is added to ethyl alcohol to render it unfit for beverage purposes. ("denatured alcohol").