WHO classifies sweetener aspartame as "possibly carcinogenic".

In Geneva, the WHO presented the results of two working groups evaluating the state of research on aspartame.

WHO classifies sweetener aspartame as "possibly carcinogenic".

In Geneva, the WHO presented the results of two working groups evaluating the state of research on aspartame. Aspartame is a synthetic sweetener found in many foods, most notably diet soda, baked goods, dairy, breakfast cereal, sugar-free gum, instant coffee, pudding, and ready meals. It is also found in numerous medications.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a WHO body, assessed the carcinogenicity of aspartame for the first time in early June in Lyon, France. The working group has classified aspartame as "possibly carcinogenic to humans," the WHO said. Because of the limited evidence for hepatocellular carcinoma, a form of liver cancer, it has been placed in the Group 2B category. There was also limited evidence of cancer in laboratory animals.

Group 2B also includes aloe vera extracts and the caffeic acid found in coffee and tea, said Paul Pharoah, a professor of cancer epidemiology at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. The general public need not be concerned about the risk of cancer from a chemical classified as Group 2B, Pharoah said.

A second working group, an Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) formed by the WHO and the UN food safety agency FAO, discussed the risks related to aspartame from 27 June to 6 July. It came to the conclusion that, based on the available data, there was no reason to change the permissible daily dose. Since 1981 it has been a maximum of 40 milligrams of aspartame per kilogram of body weight.

Since a can of soda contains between 200 and 300 milligrams of the aspartame sweetener, a 70-kilogram person would need to drink more than nine and up to 14 cans to exceed the daily allowance, provided no other foods containing aspartame are consumed. "The problem lies with high-consumption consumers," Branca said. If you only drink a diet soda every now and then, you don't have to worry.

It is estimated that aspartame is regularly consumed by 200 million people worldwide. The additive has the code E 951 in the EU.

NEXT NEWS