Cancer

Aspartame, An Artificial Sweetener, Now Classified A Carcinogen

Aspartame, a widely used artificial sweetener, is on the verge of being declared a potential cause of cancer, according to reliable sources familiar with the matter. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer research arm of the World Health Organisation (WHO), is expected to categorise aspartame as possibly carcinogenic to humans next month, marking the first time it will receive such a classification.

The IARC’s ruling, finalised after a recent meeting of external experts, aims to determine the potential hazards of a substance based on existing evidence. The Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) of the WHO and national regulators, however, evaluate safe consumption limits for individuals separately.

Previous IARC rulings on different substances have generated consumer concerns, led to legal actions, and prompted manufacturers to seek alternatives. This has led to criticism that the IARC’s assessments can be perplexing for the general public.

JECFA, the committee responsible for evaluating food additives, is currently reviewing the use of aspartame and will release its findings on the same day the IARC announces its decision. Since 1981, JECFA has maintained that aspartame is safe within recommended daily limits. Regulators worldwide, including those in the United States and Europe, have largely supported this view.

Despite the forthcoming IARC classification, aspartame remains authorised for use globally, with regulators having extensively reviewed the available evidence. Major food and beverage manufacturers have staunchly defended their use of the ingredient for decades. Notably, soft drinks giant Pepsico made adjustments to its recipes, removing aspartame in 2015, reintroducing it a year later, and removing it again in 2020, underscoring the industry’s challenge in addressing both taste preferences and health concerns.