PepsiCo Reformulates Diet Pepsi Without Aspartame

Statement of CSPI Executive Director Michael F. Jacobson


The good news in today's announcement that PepsiCo will replace the artificial sweetener aspartame with sucralose, likely a safer sweetener, in Diet Pepsi is twofold. First, it means that people will be consuming less aspartame. Three top-quality studies have found that aspartame causes cancer in animals, so the less that people consume the better. Second, that Diet Pepsi will be specifically marketed as "Aspartame Free" is a blunt acknowledgment that consumers have soured on aspartame, and the new cans should increase consumer awareness even further and spur other food and beverage companies to abandon it (including in Diet Coke).

But Diet Pepsi will still contain acesulfame-potassium. 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. As with aspartame, it is to the Food and Drug Administration's discredit that the agency hadn't required better studies long ago.

Reformulated or not, diet sodas probably are still a better choice than full-calorie sodas sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup or sugar. While diet sodas pose small risks, the evidence is strong that regular soda increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, tooth decay and other major health problems. My best advice is to refresh yourself with water, seltzer water or flavored waters.

Note: Based on Beverage Digest’s sales figures, per-capita sales of Diet Pepsi have declined by 37 percent between 1998 and 2014.