EU approves stevia extract as sweetener

Safety tests prove steviol glycosides have no adverse health impacts

 
By Ankur Paliwal
Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

In a much awaited move, the European Union has approved the use and sale steviol glycosides, extracted from the leaves of the stevia plant (Stevia rebaudiana), as a sweetener. The decision to allow its use was taken on November 11. The regulation will come into force from December 2.


In April last year, the European Food Safety Authority’s scientific panel on additives had assessed the safety of steviol glycosides. The toxicological testing assessment done by the panel found that the extracts are neither genotoxic nor  carcinogenic.

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Further, they could not be linked to any adverse effect on the human reproductive system or on a developing child. The panel had sent the assessment report to the European Commission to consider whether or not to authorise the substances in the European Union for their proposed use,  particularly in sugar-free or reduced energy foods such as certain flavoured drinks, confectionery with no added sugar and energy reduced soups.

The move is garnering praise from industry bodies as now companies would be able to roll out their products formulated from steviol glycosides in the EU. Cargill, a US-based food and beverage manufacturer, has embarked on a pan-European roll-out of its stevia-based sweetener, Truvia. Merisant, which manufactures artificial sweeteners sold under the brand names, Equal and Canderel, will make its stevia-based sweetener, Pure Via, available to UK consumers from December 2.

Stevia-based sweeteners are already approved for use in other markets, including the US, Japan, China, Australia and France.

Yet to be approved in India

Steviol glycosides, however, have not been approved in India. A scientific panel of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India has been examining whether it should approve steviol glycosides for the past one-and-a-half years. “It is very disheartening that despite enough evidence, India is still to approve steviol glycosides as a sweetener,” says Saurabh Agrawal, managing director of Stevia Life, a company involved in processing of stevia leaves. “What more proof does it (the government) need?” he asks.

Agrawal, who also heads the India Stevia Association, hailed the EU decision, saying it will also benefit Indian farmers and processing industry. It is a good opportunity for them to grow and export stevia leaves and processed extract of steviol glycosides to the European market as demand is only going to grow, he says.

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