Statement of CSPI Senior Scientist Lisa Lefferts

In 2016, the Center for Science in the Public Interest downgraded its safety rating of the artificial sweetener sucralose, the artificial sweetener in Splenda, from “caution” to “avoid” in the wake of the independent Ramazzini Institute’s findings that the chemical caused leukemia and related blood cancers in male mice.  The European Food Safety Agency announced yesterday that it doesn’t think the available data support Ramazzini’s conclusions that sucralose causes those cancers.

EFSA doesn’t always get it right.  The agency was overly dismissive of the findings, also from Ramazzini, that another artificial sweetener, aspartame, caused cancers at multiple sites in rats and mice.  EFSA is notorious for having industry-friendly opinions and for conflicts of interests on its panels.

Our bottom-line advice to consumers, especially children and pregnant women, is that they continue to avoid sucralose and aspartame, as well as the artificial sweeteners acesulfame-potassium and saccharin.  The potential cancer risk to humans is small, but there is no reason to accept any cancer risk from these products.  That said, the risks that overconsumption of sugar and especially sugar-sweetened beverages pose, of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, far outweigh the cancer risk posed by artificial sweeteners.