Concerns Over Aspartame: World Health Organization's Potential Carcinogen Classification
The World Health Organization (WHO) is expected to declare aspartame, a popular artificial sweetener used in products like Diet Coke, a possible carcinogen. This potential classification by the cancer research arm of the WHO could have significant implications for the food and beverage industry. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has assessed the carcinogenic effect of aspartame, and the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) will update its risk assessment exercise on aspartame. The results of both evaluations will be released on July 14.
Aspartame is widely used in various products, including sugarless chewing gum, yogurt, cough drops, and toothpaste. The WHO label of "possible carcinogen" indicates limited evidence linking aspartame to cancer, putting it in the lowest category of risk. The study by the IARC will not factor in the safe consumption levels of aspartame, which will be determined by the JECFA.
The impending declaration by the WHO has put the food industry on the defensive. While Coca-Cola did not provide an immediate response, the International Sweeteners Association expressed concerns about the opinion. The International Council of Beverages Associations condemned the leaked report, arguing that it could mislead consumers into
The Potential Impact of Aspartame: Evaluating its Classification as a Possible Carcinogen by WHO
Aspartame, one of the most widely used artificial sweeteners globally, is anticipated to be labeled a possible carcinogen by the World Health Organization (WHO). This potential classification, assessed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), could have significant ramifications for the food and beverage industry. The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) will also update its risk assessment exercise on aspartame, including evaluating the acceptable daily intake and dietary exposure assessment. The outcomes of both evaluations are scheduled to be released simultaneously on July 14.
Aspartame is extensively utilized in various products, ranging from Diet Coke to sugarless chewing gum and Dannon Activia yogurt. It is even present in cough drops and some toothpastes. The WHO label categorizing it as a "possible carcinogen" indicates limited evidence connecting aspartame to cancer. This classification is the lowest of three categories, with "probable carcinogen" and "carcinogenic to humans" considered as higher risks. Notably, the ruling from the IARC will not incorporate safe consumption levels of aspartame, as such advice will be determined by the JECFA.
The pending declaration by the WHO has prompted a defensive stance within the food industry. While Coca-Cola refrained from an immediate response, the International Sweeteners Association conveyed serious concerns about the opinion. The International Council of Beverages Associations, representing the non-alcoholic beverage industry, also criticized the leak of the report. They voiced worries that it could potentially mislead consumers into consuming more sugar instead of opting for safe no- and low-sugar alternatives.
This classification by the WHO represents the latest blow to sugar substitutes. In a previous guideline, the WHO advised consumers to cease using non-sugar sweeteners for weight control, asserting that they did not aid in weight loss. However, this recommendation did not specifically highlight any potential health risks associated with such sweeteners.
It is worth noting that IARC is not a food safety body, and final conclusions cannot be drawn until both reports are published. The International Sweeteners Association emphasized that aspartame is one of the most extensively researched ingredients, with over 90 food safety agencies worldwide declaring its safety. Despite these assurances, the impending declaration by the WHO has sparked concerns and defensive reactions within the food industry.
Summing it up
The release of the evaluations by the IARC and the JECFA on July 14 will provide further insights into the potential risks associated with aspartame consumption. It is crucial for consumers to be aware of these findings and make informed choices regarding their dietary habits.
The food and beverage industry will likely face challenges as it navigates the implications of the possible carcinogen classification. Manufacturers may need to reconsider their use of aspartame or explore alternative sweeteners to meet consumer demands for low-calorie and sugar-free options.
Overall, the classification of aspartame as a possible carcinogen by the WHO raises important questions about the long-term effects of artificial sweeteners on human health. It underscores the need for continuous research and regulatory oversight to ensure the safety of food additives and protect public health. Consumers should stay informed about the latest developments while maintaining a balanced approach to their dietary choices.
Originally Published at: https://fortune.com/well/2023/06/29/world-health-organization-aspartame-possible-carcinogen/
Business Topic: Health