by Marion Nestle
Dec 19 2008

FDA approves Stevia

It’s beginning to look like the FDA is getting in as many “midnight” approvals as it can before the new adminstration kicks in.  First it loosened its advisory on eating fish, and now it has told Cargill, the maker of the Truvia brand of the artificial sweetener Stevia, that it’s OK for the company to market it.  I guess the FDA must have resolved its doubts about the science supporting the safety of Stevia, even though much of it was corporate-sponsored.  But CSPI still has doubts.  Or maybe the FDA just didn’t have the strength to stop soft drink companies from marketing Stevia-sweetened drinks with or without FDA approval.  CSPI can’t understand the rush.  Why not?  It’s politics as usual, alas.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the reason for the rush is to get products with this “natural” sweetener on the market now.  Coke is coming out with Sprite Green and Odwalla juice drinks, and Pepsi will market SoBe Lifewater and an orange drink called Trop50.  They must thing they are on to something.  Stevia does have its supporters.  Me?  I’ll take sugar anytime.

April 15, 2009 update: Stevia products are on the market and competing vigorously for market share, as discussed by Kim Severson in the New York Times.

  • A summary of how we got from sugar and honey to here:
    The (un)Natural History of Sweet – From Sugar to Stevia

  • what will too much sugar do to the body

  • Christel

    I am particularly thankful for sugar and honey…and the others scare me a bit…

  • Fraggle

    Is this website about factual information or about your unqualified opinion?

  • Both, except that my opinion has some qualifications behind it (see Bio). Thanks for asking.

  • DCRunnergirl

    Hi Marion –
    I’m interested to know whether or not you think stevia is safe to consume. I am trying to reduce the amount of sugar I eat for weight loss reasons and to help control my “sweet tooth” but find it is added to just about everything. If I add sugar to my morning coffee it just starts my sugar cravings all day long. I’ve tried to drink coffee without sugar but just can’t do it. I’m looking for a sugar alternative for my morning coffee and would rather use a natural substance that has been used for hundreds of years than something manufactured in a lab (i.e. Splenda, NutraSweet), but only if it is truly safe. What are your thoughts about the safety of stevia? And also, do you have any advice for those of us who have a hard time consuming sugar/sweets in moderation?
    A reader who loves sugar a little too much

  • Marion

    The FDA says Stevia is safe at current levels of use. I don’t know of any information that suggests otherwise, but not much independent research has been done on it. Personally, I prefer sugar.