Aspartame Sweetener: Potential Carcinogen, Yet Safe in Moderation

Amelia Earhart
3 Min Read

Two groups linked to the World Health Organization (WHO) have recently released reviews on the safety of the sweetener aspartame. While the WHO’s cancer agency has categorized it as a “possible” cause of cancer, an expert panel appointed by WHO and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) deems aspartame safe for limited consumption. Despite the classification, the guidance on using aspartame remains unchanged, emphasizing moderation rather than complete avoidance.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a specialized division of the WHO, has classified aspartame as a “possible carcinogen.” This classification indicates that there is limited evidence suggesting a potential link to cancer. However, it does not consider the required consumption levels to pose a risk. The WHO and FAO Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), based in Geneva, has conducted an independent comprehensive review and stated that there is no convincing evidence of harm caused by aspartame. They continue to recommend that individuals limit their aspartame consumption to below 40mg/kg per day, a guideline established in 1981 and adopted by regulators worldwide.

Many scientists not involved in the reviews have expressed reservations about the weak evidence connecting aspartame to cancer. Industry associations representing the food and beverage sector have welcomed the decisions, asserting that aspartame remains a safe and suitable option for individuals aiming to reduce sugar intake.

To put the consumption risks into perspective, the WHO highlights that an average individual weighing between 60-70kg (132-154 lbs) would need to consume more than 9-14 cans of soft drinks daily to exceed the recommended aspartame limit. These consumption levels indicate that occasional use of aspartame is unlikely to pose a risk to the majority of consumers.

The WHO does not advocate for the complete removal of aspartame from products but instead emphasizes the importance of moderation for both manufacturers and consumers. By encouraging a balanced approach, the organization aims to reduce potential health risks associated with excessive aspartame consumption.

Although aspartame has been classified as a “possible carcinogen” by the IARC, experts maintain that consuming this sweetener in moderation, within agreed-upon limits, is safe. The WHO recommends keeping aspartame consumption below 40mg/kg per day, a guideline that has been in place for several decades. While acknowledging the need for further research, the focus remains on reducing the human toll of cancer by promoting responsible consumption habits.

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Amelia Earhart, an accomplished news reporter, and writer, brings a flair for storytelling and sharp journalistic insight to her work. As a valued contributor to, she delivers timely news and analysis on various industries. Amelia's dedication to accuracy and her adventurous spirit drive her to uncover impactful stories, leaving a lasting impression on her readers. With years of experience in journalism, she remains committed to journalistic integrity, informing and inspiring a wide audience in the dynamic world of media.
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