The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), World Health Organization (WHO), and Food Agriculture Organization (FAO) Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) have jointly published an evaluation on the potential health effects of aspartame, a non-sugar sweetener. The IARC has classified aspartame as possibly carcinogenic to humans due to “limited evidence” of its carcinogenicity in humans, specifically pointing to hepatocellular carcinoma, a form of liver cancer, as well as limited evidence in experimental animals. Conversely, the JECFA has upheld the acceptable daily intake of aspartame at 40 mg/kg body weight, concluding that there is insufficient evidence to warrant a change.
While the IARC and JECFA have differing viewpoints on the matter, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) maintains its stance that aspartame is safe when used in approved conditions and disagrees with the IARC’s classification. Similarly, the recent guidelines released by the WHO advise against the use of non-sugar sweeteners for weight management and reducing the risk of non-communicable diseases. It is important to note that these assessments and guidelines do not alter the regulatory status of aspartame.
In a nutshell, the IARC classifies aspartame as possibly carcinogenic based on limited evidence, particularly regarding hepatocellular carcinoma in humans, while the JECFA maintains the existing acceptable daily intake level. The FDA disagrees with the IARC’s classification and stands by the safety of aspartame under approved conditions. The WHO has also cautioned against the use of non-sugar sweeteners for the purpose of weight management and to reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases.