The Standing Committee of the European Commission (Directorate-General Health and Consumers Protection) voted to approve stevia extracts (steviol glycosides) for use in the European Union (EU) at its meeting held in July.  Steviol glycosides are the sweet components isolated and purified from stevia leaves. Stevia currently is approved as a dietary supplement in the European Union, but not for use as a sweetener.

In 2010, the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) Scientific Panel on additives established an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) for the low-calorie sweetener stevia, clearing the way for broader approvals of the popular ingredient as a sweetener in the European Union.  The Panel recommended an ADI of 4 mg/kg body weight/day for stevia as part of the opinion, requested by the European Commission.

Stevia is relatively new to the mainstream food and beverage market but has been used in South America for hundreds of years.  It is derived from the Stevia rebaudiana plant, which has long been used to sweeten beverages and make tea.  While the word “stevia” refers to the entire plant, only some of the components of the stevia leaf are sweet.  These sweet components are called steviol glycosides.

The next step in the regulatory process for stevia extracts is scrutiny of the proposed regulations by the European Parliament.

In the U.S., steviol glycosides are used as general purpose sweeteners in foods and beverages as well as in tabletop sweeteners.  For EFSA’s full report please visit: http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/scdocs/doc/1537.pdf

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The Calorie Control Council, established in 1966, is an international non-profit association representing the low-calorie and reduced-fat food and beverage industry. Today it represents 40 manufacturers and suppliers of low-calorie, low-fat and light foods and beverages, including the manufacturers and suppliers of more than a dozen different dietary sweeteners, fat replacers and other low-calorie ingredients.