by Marion Nestle
Jul 17 2008

Cargill’s Truvia (Stevia) comes to town

I missed the Rockefeller Center launch of Cargill’s new sweetener, Truvia, but the press people followed up by sending me a sensational press kit in a gorgeous garden tote, complete with gloves. What can I say. It’s another artificial sweetener (OK, it’s an extract of plant leaves, which they claim makes it “natural”), this time in a little green packet. The press kit included a chocolate bar “made with Truvia natural sweetener.” It tasted like a dark bitter chocolate of the waxy type. Andy Bellatti of Small Bites, who works in my department, pulled out a Lindt dark chocolate bar for comparison. Truvia 191 calories vs. Lindt 210. No contest, I’d say. One thing intrigues. The packets and chocolate have Nutrition Facts labels, but the FDA has never approved Stevia so it’s been marketed as a dietary supplement with Supplement Facts labels. Reports are that the FDA is considering its approval as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS).  But to date the FDA has not approved it.  How is Cargill getting away with this? It plans to team up with Coca-Cola to seek international approval for it on the basis of research which they claim demonstrates its safety. But neither the website nor the press kit give the protocols for the studies or the actual data so it’s hard to judge. Cargill says it worked with FDA on this. FDA is letting Cargill use a Nutrition Facts label? On an unapproved product? Well, Cargill is a giant company and I guess it knows how to get what it wants. Oh. And how does Truvia taste? Sweet, with a bitter aftertaste. Is everyone waiting for this? Or is it just me who prefers sugar?