An artificial sweetener used in Diet Coke, Coke Zero and Pepsi Max is set to be named a carcinogen next month, declaring the ingredient a potential cancer risk to humans.
Aspartame will be listed as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” in the World Health Organisation’s reclassification, insiders have claimed.
The change, made by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), will come in to effect next month.
The IARC ruling will declare the sweetener a potential hazard, but it does not take into account how much a person can safely consume.
As well as being used in Diet Coke, Coke Zero and Pepsi Max, it is also listed as an ingredient in Fanta, Lucozade and Dr Pepper (Image: Getty/supermimicry)
That advice comes from a separate branch known as JEFCA (The Joint WHO and Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Expert Committee on Food Additives).
The JECFA has said aspartame is safe to consume with accepted daily limits since 1981, with an adult weighing 60kg needing to regularly drink between 12 and 36 cans of the drink a day before becoming at risk.
Aspartame is an artificial sweetener which was first developed in the 1960’s.
It is roughly 200 times sweeter than sugar and is used in a wide variety of “diet” and “sugar-free” products.
As well as being used in Diet Coke, Coke Zero and Pepsi Max, it is also listed as an ingredient in Fanta, Lucozade and Dr Pepper.
The IARC also applies the “possibly carcinogenic” label to using aloe vera and eating pickled vegetables.
Reacting to the leaked reports, International Council of Beverages Associations (ICBA) Executive Director Kate Loatman commented: “While it appears IARC is now prepared to concede that aspartame presents no more of a hazard to consumers than using aloe vera, public health authorities should be deeply concerned that this leaked opinion contradicts decades of high-quality scientific evidence and could needlessly mislead consumers into consuming more sugar rather than choosing safe no- and low-sugar options – all on the basis of low-quality studies.
“Even IARC agrees it is not the appropriate authority to undertake risk assessment based on actual consumption and that it ‘does not make health recommendations.’
“We remain confident in the safety of aspartame given the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence and positive safety determinations by food safety authorities in more than 90 countries around the world.
“We, therefore, welcome the broader, more comprehensive food safety review underway by the WHO and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA).”