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Vast Body of Research Means Consumers Can Use Stevia with Confidence


Newswise — CHICAGO — Although stevia-derived sweeteners are relatively new to U.S. grocery store shelves, consumers should feel confident using them because of extensive and rigorous testing worldwide during the past decade and beyond.

An article in the April 2011 issue of Food Technology magazine, published by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), examines the testing of stevia products that has occurred in the United States and in other countries. Author Robert S. McQuate, Ph.D., CEO and co-founder of GRAS Associates LLC, notes that sweeteners derived from the stevia plant have been permitted for years in foods in South America and several Asian countries, such as China and Japan. More recently, it was approved in Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, France and Hong Kong. Stevia appeared as a dietary supplement in the United States in 1995 and rebaudioside A (an active ingredient of stevia) was approved for food usage in 2008 at a purity of 95 percent or above.

Stevia extracts can have up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar, making them a popular additive for consumers on low-sugar, low-carbohydrate diets. The market for Stevia products, which includes Truvia and PureVia, is estimated to be near $2 billion by the end of this year. McQuate’s article traces the regulatory path of stevia from other countries to the United States. Some of the most noteworthy findings include:

‧ The Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) spent more than a decade reviewing the safety of steviol glycosides, which give the plant its sweetness. Its first acceptable daily intake was established in 2000, and that number has steadily increased as more evidence of stevia’s safety becomes available. This is an especially strong endorsement because JECFA comprises expert scientists from various regulatory agencies around the world, including direct and substantive participation by the FDA.
‧ The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recently reviewed data on the stability, degradation products, metabolism and toxicology of stevia before endorsing it, and stevia is expected to be in wide use in Europe this year in food and beverages.
‧ As of mid-March 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given “generally regarded as safe” (GRAS) notices to 11 of 18 companies or other petitioners using stevia in their products. The remaining seven will be examined further. FDA’s GRAS notification process allows a company to voluntarily submit its independent research, which the FDS then reviews extensively.

“For the addition of stevia-derived sweeteners into various foods to occur, the regulatory and safety considerations with the sweeteners extracted from stevia leaves had to be addressed to ensure that such food offerings met the regulatory requirements,” Dr. McQuate writes. “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and numerous regulatory bodies and expert panels worldwide have undertaken rigorous evaluations of the composite safety information to protect the well-being of consumers.”

Information from this press release used for online, print, or broadcast content must be attributed to Food Technology magazine, a publication of the Institute of Food Technologists. Read the full article: http://www.ift.org/food-technology/past-issues/2011/april/features/ensuring-the-safety-of-sweeteners-from-stevia.aspx

About IFT
The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) is a nonprofit scientific society. Our individual members are professionals engaged in food science, food technology, and related professions in industry, academia, and government. IFT’s mission is to advance the science of food, and our long-range vision is to ensure a safe and abundant food supply, contributing to healthier people everywhere.

For more than 70 years, the IFT has been unlocking the potential of the food science community by creating a dynamic global forum where members from more than 100 countries can share, learn, and grow. We champion the use of sound science across the food value chain through the exchange of knowledge, by providing education, and by furthering the advancement of the profession. IFT has offices in Chicago, Illinois and Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit ift.org.



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