by Marion Nestle
Jan 4 2008

Stevia is coming (maybe)

Coca-Cola and Cargill have teamed up to start marketing the sweetener, Stevia, in countries that allow it, places like Brazil and China. Europe and the U.S. do not allow it as a food additive although the U.S. permits its use as a dietary supplement. The FDA says companies have not produced evidence that the substance is safe; it considers Stevia an “unsafe food additive” and any product containing it to be adulterated. The entry on Stevia in Wikipedia explains most of what all this is about. Concerns about the safety of Stevia have not stopped Coca-Cola from filing 24 patent applications or petitioning the FDA for approval. Interesting, no?

  • Fentry

    I listened to a podcast recently about stevia

    I’m not a toxicologist, but the working hypothesis about long-used herbs being safe in moderation seems a sound one. Even if some critical amount is unsafe, we don’t, after all, ban sage or other herbs with toxic properties in concentration.

    But one suspects that if stevia can be toxic, Coca-Cola and Cargill and the processed-food industry will figure out a way of making it so. If it turns out to be cheaper than sugar or corn syrup–watch out! The FDA position says less about the relative potential toxicity of an herb and more about their protection of the packaged food industry.

  • Fentry

    Referring to a lawsuit currently in Federal court, this snippet that came out today on Splenda is difficult to rectify with the FDA approval process in the Splenda case: “Splenda is the synthetic compound sucralose, discovered in 1976 by scientists in Britain seeking a new pesticide formulation. The artificial sweetener is made by replacing hydroxyl groups in the sugar molecule with chlorine. There are no long-term studies of the side effects of Splenda in humans. The manufacturer’s own short-term studies showed that sucralose caused shrunken thymus glands and enlarged livers and kidneys in rodents. But in this case, the FDA decided that because these studies weren’t based on human test animals, they were not conclusive. As a result, Splenda is now one of the most ubiquitous ingredients in low calorie processed foods.”

  • Mark

    Otsuka in Japan had a stevia sweetened version of its Pocari Sweat drink at one point — not sure if it’s still around. “Stevia” was the most prominent word on the label.