Stevia - Mums The Word

American FDA and Canadian government guidelines do not allow the promotion of stevia as a sweetener, only as a dietary supplement that just "happens to be 300 times sweeter than sugar" and just "happens to have been safely used in other countries for centuries." So, be careful what you call your little stevia packet - Big Brother's watching!

On May 19,1998, the President of Stevita Company (a distributor of stevia) in Arlington, Texas received a fax from the FDA Dallas District Office stating orders to seize and destroy all their cookbooks and other literature. The fax read: "...a current inventory must be taken by an investigator of this office, who will also be available to witness destruction of the cookbooks, literature, and other publications. Additionally, your stevia products currently in distributor and retail channels with the offending cookbooks, literature, and other publication continue to be in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. These products are unapproved food additives in violation of Section 409, and adulterated within the meaning of Section 402(a)(2)(c) of the Act."

According to the FDA regulations, Stevita Company's sale of stevia-related publications was illegal. Allegedly, the FDA raided various local health food stores looking for any offensive cookbooks. Interestingly, it is legal to sell literature about the herb stevia, but the publications cannot be placed next to stevia products or other nutritional supplements.

During the following months, the FDA seized Stevita's entire inventory, forcing the company to comply with the recall and destruction order. Only after lengthy litigation was the company allowed to resume distribution of some of its publications.

The FDA has turned down three industry requests to include stevia as a sweetener alternative in foods in the U.S. Stevia can be purchased in health food stores and whole food markets as a dietary supplement only. "We don't have enough data to conclude that the use [in food] would be safe," the FDA stated in 1994.

To date, the FDA still refuses to allow stevia to be sold in the U.S. as a sweetener substitute, but after years of political scrutiny and stonewalling in Europe, October 2004, stevia was finally approved by the European Commission for use as a sweetener.

As early as May 1991, the FDA imposed an import alert on stevia to prevent it from being imported into the United States. They also began formally warning companies to stop using the "illegal" herb. At this time, the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) was working diligently to defend stevia's American presence.

So when you purchase that little packet of stevia as a sweetener at the whole foods market, mums the word ...

Additional Sources:

Cooking With Stevia

The Stevia Story, A Tale Of Incredible Sweetness And Intrigue by Linda & Bill Bonvie and Donna Gates

Alvarez, Mauro. STEVIOSIDE: TOXICOLOGICAL ASPECTS. State University of Maringa, Maringa, Brazil.

McCaleb, Rob. Herb Research Foundation.


Posted January 2006 | Permanent Link

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