The WHO could declare aspartame a ‘possible carcinogen’ © ANSA/Ansa
(ANSA) – ROME, JUNE 30 – The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the WHO agency specializing in cancer research, could soon classify the sweetener aspartame as a “possible human carcinogen”. This is what Reuters anticipates on its website, citing anonymous sources.
The news is expected to be made official on July 14, when the IARC monograph dedicated to aspartame will be made available and the evaluation will be published in the Lancet Oncology journal.
Aspartame is one of the most popular sweeteners on the market.
It is present in numerous products, from drinks to industrial foods to some medicines. An initial evaluation carried out in the early 1980s confirmed its safety by defining the maximum dose at 40 mg per day per kilo of body weight.
More than 40 years later, today comes the new evaluation of the IARC to decide on the ability of the substance to promote the development of tumors. The working group met from 6 to 13 June. While in these days (June 27-July 6 2023) a meeting of a different WHO-FAO working group is underway which will have to decide the safe dose for the substance. “The two assessments are complementary,” says the IARC. “That’s why the result of the evaluations will be made available together.”
The classification system of the WHO agency has four categories: group 1 is intended for substances for which there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity; substances included in groups 2A (probable carcinogen) and 2B (possibly carcinogenic) are considered potentially capable of promoting the development of tumors, but with different levels of strength of the available scientific evidence. The last group is reserved for substances for which evidence of carcinogenicity is not available.
According to the Reuters anticipation, aspartame would have been included in the category of ‘possible carcinogens’, in which 322 substances are currently present.
– Sweetener companies: The International Sweeteners Association “has serious concerns about preliminary speculation” about the opinion of the International Agency for Research on Cancer “that could mislead consumers about the safety of aspartame”. The ISA underlines this in a note, specifying how this ingredient is one of the most “studied in history” and has been declared safe by “over 90 food safety agencies”. “The International Agency for Research on Cancer, or IARC, – explains Frances Hunt-Wood, secretary general of the International Sweeteners Association – is not a body for food safety. The joint FAO and WHO expert committee on food additives of the The World Health Organization is conducting a comprehensive review of the food safety of aspartame and no conclusions can be drawn until both reports are published.” Aspartame, continues the ISA Secretary, “is one of the most studied ingredients in history, with more than 90 food safety agencies around the world declaring its safety, including the European Food Safety Authority, which conducted the most comprehensive evaluation of the safety of aspartame to date”. For this, ISA, he adds, has “confidence in the scientific rigor of the comprehensive analysis of the food safety of aspartame conducted by the Joint Fao/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives of the World Health Organization and looks forward to the complete publication of these results in the coming weeks”.
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