Aug. 17, 2023 – A few months later, WHO declared aspartame, a key ingredient in Diet Coke, to be a “possible carcinogen”, then quickly issued a third report that seemed to contradict its previous findings – people could continue consuming the product at levels determined to be safe decades ago, before new science cited by WHO raised health concerns.

That contradiction stems from beverage industry corruption of the review process by consultants tied to an alleged Coca-Cola front group, the public health advocacy group US Right-To-Know said in a recent report.

It uncovered eight WHO panelists involved with assessing safe levels of aspartame consumption who are beverage industry consultants who currently or previously worked with the alleged Coke front group, International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI).

Their involvement in developing intake guidelines represents “an obvious conflict of interest”, said Gary Ruskin, US Right-To-Know’s executive director. “Because of this conflict of interest, [the daily intake] conclusions about aspartame are not credible, and the public should not rely on them,” he added.

Aspartame was first approved for use in the US in the early 1980s over the objection of some researchers who warned of potential health risks. In recent years, as evidence of health threats has mounted, industry has ramped up a PR campaign to downplay the issues.

In the World Health Organization’s 14 July aspartame hazard and risk assessments, its cancer research arm, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (Iarc) classified aspartame as “possibly carcinogenic”. That same day, WHO’s Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (Jecfa), which makes consumption recommendations, reaffirmed the acceptable daily intake of 40 mg/kg of body weight.