China’s sweetener makers move on WHO aspartame speculation

(Bloomberg) — China’s sweetener producers benefited after a report said the World Health Organization is set to make a decision on the safety of the manufactured sugar aspartame used in popular diet drinks, an analyst says. That substitute manufacturers can benefit.

Shares of Baolingbao Biology Co and Shandong Sanyuan Biotechnology Co, maker of the natural sweetener erythritol, rose at least 10% each on Friday. Anhui Jinhe Industrial Co, a maker of additives including sucralose, gained 9.8%, while Shandong Kaisheng New Materials Co, which uses the raw material in its production, rose 15%.

The WHO’s cancer research arm – the International Agency for Research on Cancer – is set to declare aspartame “possibly carcinogenic to humans” in July, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing people familiar with the process who did not identify Has been. The IARC assessment may classify aspartame into one of four categories: carcinogenic to humans, possibly carcinogenic to humans, possibly carcinogenic to humans, or “cannot be classified according to its carcinogenicity to humans.”

Analysts at Citic Securities, including Sheng Xia, wrote in a note that should the findings spark widespread concern among consumers, companies could replace aspartame with the even sweeter sucralose, which is 600 times sweeter than sugar.

Aspartame is also used in diet foods and sugar-free gum, and is common in China’s food and beverage industry catering to the sugar-free trend. The diet drink market alone quadrupled in the five years since 2017 to reach nearly 20 billion yuan ($2.76 billion) last year, according to consultancy iiMedia Research.

Analysts at Citic Securities said the IARC could classify the additive’s carcinogenic effects as equivalent to agents such as red meat or radio-frequency electromagnetic fields associated with the use of mobile phones.

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