Sweeteners. On July 14, WHO published a report on the risk and hazard assessment of aspartame. It was prepared in conjunction with the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). IARC classified aspartame as possibly carcinogenic to humans, while JECFA stated that the acceptable daily intake of aspartame is 40 mg/kg body weight. Based on these studies, in the medium term, different countries in the region could take their own decisions to discourage its intake in their populations while awaiting further evidence on its consumption in humans.
In the report, IARC and WHO highlighted the scarce literature related to the consumption of aspartame. In this context, both organizations conducted reviews to assess the potential health risks associated with the consumption of this sweetener. There, the IARC found limited evidence that ingestion of the ingredient generates cancer in humans, specifically hepatocellular carcinoma (a type of liver cancer), and in experimental animals. In any case, the entity recommended further research to better understand its risk.
In the document, JECFA concluded that consumption of a daily amount of 0 to 40 mg/kg body weight for aspartame is safe. For example, with one can of diet soda containing 200 to 300 mg of aspartame, an adult weighing 70 kg would need to consume more than 9-14 cans per day to exceed the acceptable daily intake, if no other aspartame-containing foods are consumed. It is important to note that this sweetener is often used, in addition to sugar-reduced beverages, whether soft drinks or juices, in ice cream, dressings and bakery products.
WHO and IARC will promote further studies on aspartame and its health effects, especially with regard to its potential carcinogenic hazard. They will continue to monitor the available scientific evidence and provide guidance on the safe use of aspartame in foods. In the meantime, it is not excluded that governments in the region may take measures to limit its intake while awaiting additional evidence on its consumption in the population.