cans death danger

It’s official: artificial sweeteners are bad for us. As of last month,the World Health Organization (WHO) is now cautioningagainst the long-term use of artificial sweeteners, citing potential health risks.

This doesn’t just mean sweeteners aren’t the healthy alternative to sugar that big food and drink companies have long maintained. Results of the WHO’s review pointed to undesirable effects such as an increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and mortality in adults.

In the best-case scenario, producers and major users of sweeteners must now decide how to address these worrying new health concerns. The worst-case scenario is that the health concerns are not new at all.

As long as 10 years ago, academics found almost all studies defending aspartame were funded by large chemical corporations that manufacture and sell, that’s right, aspartame. The same team found studies suggesting aspartame may cause harm were funded by non-commercial, independent sources.

Even with the benefit of the doubt, the status quo cannot continue. But the response from industry, at least in this country, has been underwhelming. Large soft drink multinationals are trying to kick the can, saying scientific consensus still points toward sweeteners being fine to use.

Certainly, that would be the convenient way forward. After all, sweeteners are effectively designed to make you want more of whatever they’re in. It’s a booming business.

Unfortunately, we all need to face facts. The big drinks companies may not want to acknowledge it, but these are going to be a challenging few years: they invested a lot in moving from sugar to sweeteners when the sugar tax came in. Moving from sweeteners to unsweetened products is going to be another seismic shift, but a vital one.

At the very least, messaging around sweeteners is due an overhaul. It’s time producers and retailers tell consumers the truth: sweeteners are neither healthy nor neutral.

Dozens of factors affect our health, and it would be wrong to say sweeteners are the only thing making us unhealthy. But unless we urgently educate people on the facts, the UK health crisis could get worse.