The Joint Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)/World Health Organization (WHO) Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) has published the summary of its findings on the food safety aspartame and 15 other flavorings, which was discussed at the 96th meeting of JECFA that took place in Geneva, Switzerland from June 27–July 6, 2023.
For all substances, JECFA performed a comprehensive risk assessment, which is a four-step scientific process that includes hazard identification, hazard characterization, dietary exposure assessment, and risk characterization. Based on the scientific process, JECFA considered related hazards that might be attributable to aspartame and other food additives used as flavorings.
JECFA reevaluated aspartame and concluded that there was no convincing evidence from experimental animal or human data showing adverse effects after ingestion, although, at the same time, WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared aspartame as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” JECFA’s conclusion is underpinned by the knowledge that aspartame is fully hydrolyzed in the gastrointestinal tract into metabolites that are identical to those absorbed after consumption of common foods, and that no aspartame enters the systemic circulation. Therefore, JECFA concluded that there is no reason to change the previously established acceptable daily intake (ADI) of milligrams per kilogram of bodyweight (0–40 mg/kg bw) for aspartame.
Regarding the other 15 flavorings that were evaluated, the JECFA concluded that there is no safety concern and established their specifications. Specifically, the flavorings determined to pose no concerns are as follows:
- 4-Methylpentyl 4-methylvalerate
- 5-Methylhexyl acetate
- 4-Methylpentyl isovalerate
- Ethyl 4-methylpentanoate
- Ethyl 2-ethylbutyrate
- Ethyl 2-ethylhexanoate
- 2-Phenoxyethyl 2-(4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenyl)acetate
- 3-Phenylpropyl 2-(4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenyl)acetate
- cis-3-Hexenyl salicylate
- 4-Formyl-2-methoxyphenyl 2-hydroxypropanoate
- 3,4-Dihydroxybenzoic acid
- 3-Hydroxybenzoic acid.