Reuters, citing two knowledgeable sources, reported that the World Health Organization’s cancer-research arm was poised to declare artificial sweetener Aspartame “possibly carcinogenic for humans” as soon as next month.

Aspartame can be found in a wide variety of products, from diet Coca-Cola (KO, -0.93%) to Mars Extra chewing gums and Snapple drinks. IARC reported that this will be the first time the agency has taken such a step.

After a meeting with its external experts, the IARC’s ruling was finalized in early this month. The meeting looked at all published evidence to determine if something was a possible hazard. The meeting did not address the amount of a food product that can be consumed safely. That advice comes from a separate WHO expert panel on food additives called JECFA (the Joint WHO and Food and Agriculture Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives), as well as national regulators.

On Thursday, industry groups reacted immediately.

The Calorie Control Council, in an emailed statement, stated that “consumers deserve facts” and that aspartame has been repeatedly determined safe by international scientific and regulatory agencies.

Ranking said that the IARC was not a regulatory body, a food expert, or an authority on food safety.

“Their only focus is finding substances that can cause cancer. They have classified things such as aloe vera and low-frequency electromagnetic fields and pickled vegetables, as potentially causing cancer. “These misleading claims are missing context, which is what consumers want,” he said.

Kate Loatman is the executive director of International Council of Beverage Associations (ICBA).

While it appears IARC has now conceded that aspartame is no more dangerous to consumers than aloe vera. Public health authorities should be deeply worried that this leaked statement contradicts decades’ worth of high-quality science and could mislead the public into eating more sugar instead of choosing low- or no-sugar alternatives.

The WHO warned people in May not to use sweeteners other than sugar for weight loss,warning they could increase the risk of Type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease and mortality among adults.