Why in the News?
- Assessments of the health impacts of the non-sugar sweetener aspartame have been released by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA).
- Lack of clarity: JECFA has declared that the aspartame sweetener is a ‘possible carcinogen’, as per JECFA, it did not have convincing evidence of harm caused by aspartame.
- Safety Limit: It remains safe to be consumed in agreed quantities, JECFA recommended to keep consumption levels of aspartame below 40mg/kg a day.
- Further research required: The assessments of aspartame have indicated that, while safety is not a major concern at the doses which are commonly used, potential effects have been described that need to be investigated by more and better studies.
- Limited evidence: There was also limited evidence for cancer in experimental animals and limited evidence related to the possible mechanisms for causing cancer.
- Discovery: It was discovered in 1965 by American chemist James Schlatter.
- Approval: Approved by the FDA in 1974, it is used in various food and beverage products since the 1980s, It gained popularity due to its zero calories and lack of bitter aftertaste.
- Uses: It is used to enhance flavoring of baked and canned foods, powdered drink mixes, candy and puddings. Other uses include sweetening agent in diet drinks, chewing gum, gelatin, ice cream, dairy products such as yogurt, breakfast cereal, toothpaste and medications such as cough drops and chewable vitamins.