The World Health Organization’s (WHO) assessment of the safety of aspartame, a widely used non-sugar sweetener, has come under scrutiny due to alleged industry influence. Recent reports reveal that WHO consultants tied to a purported Coca-Cola front group, the International Life Sciences Institute (Ilsi), were involved in the safety assessment process. This connection has raised concerns of a conflict of interest, potentially compromising the credibility of the findings.
In May, WHO released a report questioning the efficacy of non-sugar sweeteners for weight loss and their potential long-term health risks. However, subsequent reports from WHO seemed to contradict these findings, stating that aspartame was safe for consumption within previously established limits. The contradictory conclusions have sparked discussions about the integrity of the assessment process.
US Right-To-Know, a public health advocacy group, unearthed that eight WHO panelists involved in aspartame safety assessment had affiliations with Ilsi, the alleged industry group with ties to Coca-Cola. This connection raises concerns about biased recommendations and industry influence on the evaluation of the sweetener’s safety.
The controversy stems from the fact that Ilsi, founded by a Coca-Cola executive, has been associated with shaping food policy and regulatory processes worldwide. The alleged conflict of interest has drawn attention to the WHO’s decision-making process and its reliance on consultants with industry ties.
WHO spokesperson Fadéla Chaib defended the inclusion of industry consultants in the assessment process, stating that experts were selected based on their potential contributions to the debate. However, the involvement of consultants with ties to Ilsi, even if not active for a decade, has raised questions about the transparency and credibility of the assessment.
This situation highlights the challenges of maintaining objectivity and transparency in scientific assessments, especially when industry interests are involved. The controversy serves as a reminder of the importance of independent research and unbiased evaluations to ensure public trust in health and safety recommendations.
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