Aspartame set to be declared possible carcinogen | Inquirer News

Aspartame set to be declared possible carcinogen

/ 05:36 AM June 30, 2023

Diet Coke is seen on display at a store in New York City, U.S., June 28, 2023. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton aspartame sweetener carcinogen

Diet Coke is seen on display at a store in New York City, U.S., June 28, 2023. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

LONDON — One of the world’s most common artificial sweeteners is set to be declared a possible carcinogen by a leading global health body, according to two sources with knowledge of the process, pitting it against the food industry and regulators.

Aspartame, used in products from Coca-Cola diet sodas to Mars’ Extra chewing gum and some Snapple drinks, will be listed in July as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” for the first time by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer research arm of the World Health Organization (WHO), sources said.


The IARC ruling, finalized earlier this month after a meeting of the group’s external experts, is intended to assess whether something is a potential hazard or not, based on all the published evidence.


Daily limits

It does not take into account how much of a product a person can safely consume. This advice for individuals comes from a separate WHO expert committee on food additives, the Joint WHO and Food and Agriculture Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives (Jecfa).

Jecfa is also reviewing aspartame use this year. Its meeting began at the end of June and it is due to announce its findings on the same day that the IARC makes public its decision on July 14.

Since 1981, Jecfa has said aspartame is safe to consume within accepted daily limits.

For example, an adult weighing 132 pounds would have to drink between 12 and 36 cans of diet soda—depending on the amount of aspartame in the beverage—every day to be at risk.

Its view has been widely shared by national regulators, including in the United States and Europe.


An IARC spokesperson said both the IARC and Jecfa committees’ findings were confidential until July, but added they were “complementary,” with the IARC’s conclusion representing “the first fundamental step to understand carcinogenicity.”


However, industry and regulators fear that holding both processes at around the same time could be confusing, according to letters from US and Japanese regulators seen by Reuters.

The Japanese mission in Geneva, where the WHO is based, did not respond to a request for comment.


The IARC’s decisions have also faced criticism for sparking needless alarm over hard to avoid substances or situations. It has previously put working overnight and consuming red meat into its “probably cancer-causing” class, and using mobile phones as “possibly cancer-causing,” similar to aspartame.

“IARC is not a food safety body and their review of aspartame is not scientifically comprehensive and is based heavily on widely discredited research,” Frances Hunt-Wood, secretary general of the International Sweeteners Association, said.

The International Council of Beverages Associations’ executive director Kate Loatman said public health authorities should be “deeply concerned” by the “leaked opinion,” and also warned it “could needlessly mislead consumers into consuming more sugar rather than choosing safe no- and low-sugar options.”


Direct sugar importation of beverage makers bucked

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

WHO warns against using artificial sweeteners

TAGS: carcinogen, sugar

© Copyright 1997-2024 | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.