File photo/NBD

It's reported that Aspartame will be listed in July as "possibly carcinogenic to humans" for the first time by the IARC.

However, similar IARC rulings in the past for different substances have raised concerns among consumers about their use, led to lawsuits, and pressured manufacturers to recreate recipes and swap to alternatives. That has led to criticism that the IARC's assessments can be confusing to the public.

An industry body said "IARC is not a food safety body and their review of aspartame is not scientifically comprehensive and is based heavily on widely discredited research."

In response, IARC told National Business Daily (NBD) that in its Monographs Programme, IARC conducts hazard identification, which is the first fundamental step to understand carcinogenicity. "Hazard identification aims to identify the specific properties of the agent and its potential to cause harm, i.e., the potential of an agent to cause cancer. The classifications reflect the strength of the scientific evidence as to whether an agent can cause cancer in humans, but they do not reflect how high the risk of developing cancer is at a given exposure level."

IARC added that the JECFA Programme (Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives) conducts risk assessment, which determines the probability of a specific type of harm (e.g., cancer) to occur under certain conditions and levels of exposure.

"The evaluations are independent but complementary and are conducted one after the other in the months of June-July 2023. Given the close collaboration between the IARC Monographs and the WHO/FAO JECFA Secretariat, we have planned to present the results of both evaluations at same time. This will allow to clearly communicate the different purposes of a hazard identification and a risk assessment and help put these results into context." IARC noted.

According to IARC, these complementary results will be announced jointly by IARC and JECFA on July 14, 2023, and are confidential until the summary of the evaluations of IARC Monographs Volume 134 is published online, at 00:30 CEST, 14 July, by The Lancet Oncology, and simultaneous publication of the JECFA findings on the WHO website.

Editor: Billy