**Diet Coke Ingredient Confirmed Safe at Real-World Exposure Levels, Says WHO Report**
A second report from the World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed the safety of an ingredient found in Diet Coke at “real-world exposure levels.” This comes after an initial report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) hinted that the ingredient, aspartame, could be labeled as a carcinogen.
**Second Report by Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives**
On July 13, the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), consisting of WHO and UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) experts, released a report that aimed to identify the safe consumption levels of aspartame. This report was highly anticipated as it provided context on the amount of aspartame that could be safely consumed.
**Criticism of the IARC Report**
The IARC report, which only looked at the hazard potential of aspartame and not the associated risks, caused confusion among consumers and experts. Dr. Susan Elmore, a U.S.-based toxicology expert, highlighted the importance of considering both risk and hazard, which is exactly what JECFA did in their assessment.
**Insights from JECFA’s Findings**
JECFA’s findings, based on the input of 13 members and 13 experts from 15 countries, revealed that an average person weighing 154 pounds would need to consume more than nine to 14 cans of diet beverages every day throughout their lifetime to raise safety concerns.
**Support from the International Council of Beverages Associations**
The International Council of Beverages Associations, a trade organization representing the nonalcoholic beverage industry, welcomed JECFA’s findings. The director of the organization, Kate Loatman, emphasized the importance of this clarification for consumers who are seeking options to reduce sugar and calorie intake. She also pointed out that JECFA’s conclusion aligns with the overwhelming scientific evidence accumulated over four decades and positive determinations from food safety authorities in more than 90 countries.
**Lessons Learned from Past Rulings**
Previous rulings by IARC, such as the classification of glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic,” have had significant impacts on businesses. For example, Bayer lost multiple appeals against court verdicts that awarded damages to customers who attributed their cancer to the use of glyphosate-based weed killers. It is essential for companies to have confidence in the safety of their ingredients to avoid such repercussions.
**Strong Defense of Aspartame Safety**
Robert Rankin, President of the Calorie Control Council, emphasized that the consumption levels outlined by JECFA, which would pose a danger, are not realistic or aligned with the intended use of aspartame. He stressed that it would be misleading and inaccurate to suggest that aspartame is anything other than safe, especially for the millions of people managing their diabetes and body weight who rely on products with low- and no-calorie sweeteners.
**Confidence in the Safety of Beverage Products**
The American Beverage trade association, which includes members like Coca-Cola distributor Abarta and Pepsi-Cola, expressed confidence in the safety of their products. They highlighted the continuous findings of food agencies worldwide, including the FDA, that support the safety of aspartame.
In conclusion, the second report from the WHO’s Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives has reaffirmed the safety of aspartame at “real-world exposure levels.” This clarification provides confidence to consumers and the beverage industry alike, as it considers options to reduce sugar and calorie intake. The comprehensive assessment by JECFA aligns with the extensive scientific evidence accumulated over several decades, as well as positive determinations by food safety authorities globally. It is crucial for businesses to have faith in the safety of their ingredients to avoid potential repercussions.