On July 13th, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) released their anticipated announcement on aspartame, categorizing the artificial sweetener as a “possible” cause of cancer. What does this latest classification mean for the beloved brand and consumers?
Besides Diet Coke, aspartame is found in many products, including Snapple drinks, and Extra chewing gum.
Confusions from the IARC
The IARC’s assessments can have a significant impact on public perception and lead to legal action and recipe modifications. However, they have faced criticism for causing confusion among the public, especially in the lead-up to their announcement. Critics argue that the IARC’s classification system, which includes categories ranging from carcinogenic to not classifiable, can create unnecessary alarm. These classifications are determined by how much evidence there is, not the level of risk. Aspartame now joins the category of more than 300 other possible cancer-causing agents which includes recognizable names like aloe vera extract and carpentry work.
Since 1981, the Joint WHO and Food and Agriculture Organization’s Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) has determined that aspartame is safe within established daily limits, a view that is supported by national regulators in both Europe and the US. With the latest from the IARC, the guidance on the use of the sweetener isn’t changing. It’s important not to make customers think there’s a Diet Coke cancer warning when it’s been around for decades.
Next Steps for Diet Coke
Diet Coke has been here before. In fact, they have spent many years defending themselves against critics who stand by claims that diet soda is bad for consumers. If and when they’re asked to comment on the latest finding, transparency from the brand is key. Most things should be consumed in moderation to avoid adverse reactions. Coca-Cola does not need to launch a new educational campaign on how to safely consume Diet Coke. If Coca-Cola is interested, they can continue to partake in research for better artificial sugar alternatives that don’t compromise the taste consumers have grown to love and expect.
Ronn Torossian is Founder & Chairman of 5WPR.