As of last week, it seems companies producing zero-calorie products will have zero excuse to continue using synthetic sweeteners aspartame, saccharin and Splenda.
Following political pressure from industry giants Coca-Cola and Pepsi, The FDA gave a long-awaited nod to two stevia-based sweeteners developed by PepsiCo and the Coca-Cola Company. According to an article in the New York Times, the FDA now says they have “no objection to rebiana having GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) status” as a general-purpose sweetener for food and beverages. It’s a huge switch in the FDA’s attitude. Previously, despite that Stevia is approved as a food additive in at least a dozen countries, including Japan and China, it could only be marketed in the U.S. as a supplement and was routinely suppressed by the FDA, reputedly because it threatened the profits of aspartame.
The two new stevia-based sweeteners, PureVia and Truvia should show up on the consumer shelves in early 2009. Both use rebiana or Reb A, an extract from a South American shrub called stevia. Stevia is said to be 150 to 400 times sweeter than sugar. See also Stevia on Wiipedia
While the FDA’s motives continue to be questionable, the benefit to the consumer is not: This turn in the Stevia tide will no doubt open the gates for stevia-sweetened products to flood the market. That’s excellent news for anyone seeking healthier, more organic products.
New products to look for with Stevia
- According to Reuters, Coca-Cola North America said Sprite Green is due to go on sale this month, and that it would be the first of what it expects to be many US products sweetened with Truvia.
- PepsiCo said its first US PureVia sweetened products would SoBe Lifewater in three different flavors.
One caveat: There is speculation that the patented stevia sweeteners being used by Coca-Cola and Pepsi are in some way “less natural.” Says one source, “Stevia was not approved as a food additive by U.S. regulators, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued letters to the companies on Wednesday saying it had no objections to their sweeteners, which are derived from the plant.” And reminds us to “… this is a combination of sweeteners and chemicals and not real stevia.”
According to an article by foodnavigator.com, “Peter Milsted, PureCircle sales and marketing director, stressed that it was important for PureCircle that FDA GRAS was for 95 percent purity because ‘it separates it completely from stevia extract, which doesn’t have that kind of purity level as Reb A.’”
We’ll keep you posted.