The World Health Organization (WHO) is set to declare one of the most common artificial sweeteners, aspartame, a possible carcinogen in July.
This move by the controversial Chinese-backed organization has been met with widespread criticism and confusion from health regulators around the world.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the WHO’s cancer research arm, will list aspartame as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” for the first time.
Aspartame is used in thousands of products including Coca-Cola diet sodas, Mars’ Extra chewing gum, some Snapple drinks, Mentos, and ice cream.
However, many are suspicious of this announcement due to past decisions made by IARC that have led to lawsuits and confusion among consumers about their use of certain substances.
The Joint WHO and Food and Agriculture Organization’s Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) has said that aspartame is safe to consume within accepted daily limits since 1981.
A separate WHO “expert” committee on food additives, known as JECFA (the Joint WHO and Food and Agriculture Organization’s Expert Committee on Food Additives), has consistently claimed aspartame is acceptable to consume “within daily limits” for over 40 years. A small adult would have to drink at least 12 cans of Diet Coke to put their health at risk.
Since 1981, JECFA has said aspartame is safe to consume within accepted daily limits. For example, an adult weighing 60 kg (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.
In addition to this scientific evidence against what IARC proposes, Frances Hunt-Wood – secretary general of the International Sweeteners Association – claims that “Aspartame is one of the most thoroughly researched ingredients in history…with over 90 food safety agencies across the globe declaring it is safe.”
In contrast with this logical argument backed up by data from multiple sources, it appears as though IARC’s decision may be based more on politics than science.
This upcoming ruling puts conservative health regulators across America and around the globe at odds with each other while trial lawyers prepare to make themselves rich off any potential litigation between organizations like JECFA who claim that aspartame is safe versus IARC who say otherwise – a power play if there ever was one.
It remains unclear how much impact this decision will have globally regardless of whether governments around the world move to regulate aspartame or not.