Pepsi announced today that it will be removing aspartame from some of its Diet Pepsi drinks, effective this August. Affected by this change are Wild Cherry Diet Pepsi, as well as Regular and Caffeine-Free Diet Pepsi — but not Diet Mountain Dew. Since 2013, Diet Pepsi flavors have been artificially sweetened using a blend of aspartame and acesulfame potassium (also known as ace-K). The new Diet Pepsi formulation will now be sweetened with ace-K and sucralose. Though some consumers worry about aspartame’s health effects, Seth Kaufman, senior vice president of Pepsi and of flavor, denies this was a driving force in the company's decision to remove the chemical. In a phone interview with USA Today, he instead attributes the decision to changing consumer preferences: "Decades of studies have shown that aspartame is safe. This is not about safety."
Early studies of laboratory animals showed a link between other artificial sweeteners (a combination of cyclamate and saccharin) and bladder cancer, but subsequent studies have not shown a cancer risk from FDA-approved artificial sweeteners in humans. While the FDA has deemed aspartame safe for human consumption, some consumers remain skeptical.
And, the ingredients replacing aspartame in Diet Pepsi aren’t without their own controversy. Michael Jacobson, director of the advocacy group Center For Science In The Public Interest, told USA Today: "Diet Pepsi will still contain acesulfame-potassium (ace-K). Consumers should avoid that sweetener as well. It is poorly tested, but the tests done by the manufacturer in the 1970s suggest that ace-K, too, might pose a cancer risk." Coca-Cola, manufacturer of the country’s top-selling diet soda and Pepsi’s rival, announced that it has no plans to alter its Diet Coke recipe.