WHO to name aspartame, food and drink sweetener, as ‘possible human carcinogen’

The World Health Organization is expected to name aspartame, one of the world’s most used artificial sweeteners, as a product that could possibly cause cancer in humans, according to Reuters.

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The sweetener, which is used in countless products including diet soft drinks, chewing gum, sugar-free ice cream and breakfast cereal, will, for the first time by WHO, be listed as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” sources have told Reuters.

According to the report, the decision comes weeks after a meeting of the organization’s external experts who assess whether something is a potential hazard or not, based on all the published evidence.

The WHO’s cancer research arm, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), conducted the safety review of the sweetener and will publish a report next month.

It is preparing to label the sweetener as “possibly carcinogenic to humans,” according to Reuters. That would mean there is some limited evidence linking aspartame to cancer. According to WHO, the IARC has two more serious categories, “probably carcinogenic to humans” and “carcinogenic to humans”.

“IARC has assessed the potential carcinogenic effect of aspartame (hazard identification),” an IARC spokesperson confirmed to The Guardian.

Reuters pointed out that the decision does not consider how much of a product a person can consume before it is considered unsafe.

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,” Reuters reported.

IARC has previously put using mobile phones in its possibly causing cancer list, with consuming red meat and working overnight shifts listed as probably cancer causes.

The release of the organization’s decision is expected on July 14.