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Business News/ Economy / FSSAI to assess WHO rules on sweeteners
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FSSAI to assess WHO rules on sweeteners

FSSAI’s comments follow news reports that said aspartame, a commonly used artificial sweetener, is set to be declared as a possible carcinogen by the IARC, the cancer research arm of the WHO

Aspartame is a common additive used in diet beverages and even some foods and candies.Premium
Aspartame is a common additive used in diet beverages and even some foods and candies.

NEW DELHI : Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) said it would look at the impact of non-sugar sweeteners on the Indian population via an expert panel and engage with stakeholders before concluding any adverse effects of such additives used in foods and beverages.

FSSAI’s comments follow news reports that said aspartame, a commonly used artificial sweetener, is set to be declared as a possible carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer research arm of the World Health Organization (WHO).

“We will look at the Indian perspective. We really don’t have to go with what the world says. A lot of recommendations keep coming out. We have to look at the Indian population...then only we will take the decision," H.S. Oberoi, an adviser at the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), said while addressing a panel at an industry event in the capital on Thursday.

Oberoi said a panel set up by the FSSAI “is deliberating on that aspect". “WHO had come out with a paper saying non-sugar sweeteners are not linked to weight management, and now the second bombshell was that aspartame can cause cancer. We have with us on the panel experts like Dr Shashank Joshi, a well-known endocrinologist...we are discussing it. The studies have to be done comprehensively before coming out with any kind of information or data. We don’t have to ape the West or ape the East when India itself today is in a powerful situation. So we are working on what the Indian population looks at, what is the effect of consuming aspartame or non-sugar sweeteners on the Indian population. We do take the Indian data into consideration before we set out any standards," he added.

FSSAI has a “very sturdy and robust" mechanism of setting standards, he said. “Whether it is carbonated beverages or non-carbonated beverages, we take stakeholders into consultation…Before setting any standards or thresholds limits, we go for larger stakeholder consultation then only we arrive at a certain conclusion that too which has scientific evidence," he said. Aspartame is a common additive used in diet beverages and even some foods and candies. In May, the World Health Organization (WHO) also released guidelines on non-sugar sweeteners (NSS) that recommended against the use of NSS to control body weight or reduce the risk of noncommunicable diseases. In fact, long-term use of NSS may pose potential undesirable effects such as an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and mortality in adults, it said.

The two adverse reports have struck the beverage industry that relies heavily on non-sugar sweeteners to sell popular low-sugar and zero-calorie beverages. Consumers have, over the years, also become hooked on to such products.

Meanwhile, an executive from beverage maker Coca-Cola India, which uses aspartame in its popular Diet Coke sodas, said aspartame is a thoroughly researched ingredient. “Aspartame is the most researched ingredient globally from the European Union to the US to every other market, including India. There has been enough and more research on aspartame. This new report and some leaks, which are there—I am really not in the position to comment. Let’s wait for the 14th (when WHO findings are expected to be made public). Let’s get the new report. We will be in a better position to actually talk about what this report contains," Sundeep Bajoria, vice president of Coca-Cola India, said in an interview on Thursday on the sidelines of an industry event organized by the Indian Beverage Association (IBA).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Suneera Tandon
Suneera Tandon is a New Delhi based reporter covering consumer goods for Mint. Suneera reports on fast moving consumer goods makers, retailers as well as other consumer-facing businesses such as restaurants and malls. She is deeply interested in what consumers across urban and rural India buy, wear and eat. Suneera holds a masters degree in English Literature from the University of Delhi.
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Published: 06 Jul 2023, 11:59 PM IST
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