Natural sweetners feature fruit from China, Africa

by Staff
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One natural high-intensity sweetener (H.I.S.), Sweet Fiber, has entered the market as an ingredient for processed foods and beverages and as a product sold at retail. Another natural H.I.S., Cweet, could be a year or two away from market launch.

Sweet Fiber, a zero-calorie sweetener with prebiotic fiber, gains its sweetness from white luo han guo, a fruit extract from the melon family.

Sweet Fiber’s prebiotic fiber comes from inulin extracted from chicory root. The inulin and the white luo han guo blend readily since they both are dry powders of about the same particle size, said Scott Taylor, founder of Purpose Foods. Since luo han guo is heat stable, Sweet Fiber may work in almost all foods and beverages, he said.

The fruit is cultivated in the Guangxi Province of southern China. Purpose Foods, Monrovia, Calif., offers Sweet Fiber. Mr. Taylor testified to the safety of the fruit extract sourced from China.

"We inspect the luo han guo production facilities in China on a regular basis," he said. "We conduct testing on the raw materials in the U.S. through ChromaDex, a leading developer of standards.

"We work with the kosher certifying agency to ensure that kosher standards are met. Through all of these measures we believe that luo han guo is a safe food."

Food and beverage manufacturers worldwide already are testing Cweet, even though it has yet to gain generally recognized as safe (GRAS) status, said Loren Miles, president and chief executive officer of Natur Research Ingredients, Inc., a company based in Los Angeles that intends to market Cweet. Natur Research Ingredients could achieve self-affirmed GRAS status for Cweet in the next 12 to 16 months, he said. After the self-affirmation, Natur Research intends to seek GRAS approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

Cweet is about 1,000 times sweeter than sucrose, Mr. Miles said. It is a zero-calorie sweetener that is heat stable. Cweet is derived from brazzein, a West African fruit. Dr. Fariba M. Assadi-Porter, a scientist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, discovered how to commercialize the sweetener sourced from brazzein. Natur Research Ingredients obtained an exclusive worldwide license from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation to manufacture and distribute Cweet.

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