The use of aspartame in food products has been debated for decades, prompting some companies to remove the compound from their products.
Aspartame, a popular artificial sweetener found in Diet Coke, chewing gum, yoghurt, and other food products, is set to be classified as a possible carcinogen by a World Health Organisation cancer research arm next month, according to Reuters.
Aspartame is a low-calorie artificial sweetener that has been in widespread use since its discovery in 1965. It is approximately 200 times sweeter than table sugar (sucrose), making it an appealing ingredient for food and beverage manufacturers who seek to create reduced-calorie products without sacrificing sweetness.
Chemically, aspartame is a methyl ester of the aspartic acid/phenylalanine dipeptide. It is commonly used in a plethora of consumables, including diet sodas, gum, yogurt, and a wide range of sugar-free or “diet” products.
Soft drinks, gelatine, confectionery, desserts, and sugar-free cough drops all contain the low-calorie sugar substitute. It’s also used to flavour baked and canned foods, powdered drink mixes, candy, and puddings.
Products to look out for in Qatar
The substance is present in numerous products found on grocery store shelves across the country.
This includes Diet Coke, Extra sugar free chewing gum, Jell-O sugar free gelatine dessert mix, Snapple zero sugar tea and juice drinks, Sugar Twin 2 sweetener packets, Equal Zero Calorie Sweeteners, Trident sugar-free peppermint gums.
PepsiCo removed aspartame from some diet sodas sold in the United States. Although the ingredient was reinstated a year later, it was removed again in 2020.
In 2014, General Mills’ Yoplait also removed aspartame from its yoghurts. Sucralose, an alternative sweetener, is now used in the brand’s low-sugar products.
Consumers concerned about the ingredient are advised to keep an eye out for products marketed as “sugar-free” .
Alternatively, a WHO expert committee on food additives has approved saccharin, sucralose, and neotame as artificial sweeteners.
The FDA has also approved the use of three types of plant- and fruit-based sweeteners, including stevia plant extracts, swingle fruit extracts, and a protein group known as Thaumatin.