I had no idea how much controversy surrounds the topic of aspartame. Here are a couple of articles, and one paragraph about the FDA and the approval of aspartame from the first article:
Jason Ketola, 'Diet Coke is the Devil's Drink.' The Minnesota Daily, March 2006. http://www.mndaily.com/articles/2006/03/29/67749
Will Sansom, 'New Analysis Suggests ‘Diet Soda Paradox’ – Less Sugar, More Weight.' University of Texas Health Science Center, June 2005. http://www.uthscsa.edu/hscnews/singleformat.asp?newID=1539
(Exerpt from 'Diet Coke is the Devil's Drink')
Aspartame's sordid history begins in 1965 when it was discovered by a researcher working on an ulcer drug. Seeing the potential for a substance hundreds of times sweeter than sugar and having no calories, the Searle Company, which owned the patent, began applying for Food and Drug Administration approval. The substance received FDA approval in the 1970s for restricted use in dry foods, and almost immediately the Searle Company was investigated by the FDA and was found to have manipulated research claiming its safety. Donald Rumsfeld was hired as the chief financial officer of Searle in 1977 and helped Ronald Reagan pick the new FDA commissioner in 1981. Almost immediately the new commissioner overruled the findings against aspartame and only a few years later aspartame was approved for use in beverages, despite pleas by the National Soft Drink Association for further safety testing.