Stevia suppliers optimistic over E.U. findings

by Jeff Gelski
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WAYZATA, MINN. — Cargill expressed optimism on April 14 when the European Food Safety Authority’s scientific panel on additives released findings on steviol glycosides, which are stevia extracts used as sweeteners.

The panel established an acceptable daily intake (ADI) for the safe use of steviol glycosides of 4 mg per kilogram (2.2 lbs) of body weight. The panel’s assessment has been sent to the European Commission, which will consider whether or not to authorize the substances in the European Union for their proposed use, particularly in sugar-free or reduced-calorie foods.
“This is a very important milestone in the path of European regulatory approval of steviol glycosides,” said Zanna McFerson, assistant vice-president of Cargill Health and Nutrition. “We look forward to offering our food and beverage customers Truvia rebiana for use in foods, beverages and confectionery products as an innovation for their brands.”

Toxicological testing showed the substances were not genetoxic, carcinogenic or linked to any adverse effects on the reproductive human system or for the developing child. The level of 4 mg per kilogram of body weight is consistent with levels established by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA).

Cargill was one of three entities that originally petitioned the E.F.S.A. for the use of stevia extracts in foods and beverages. The sweetening mixtures in all the petitions were not less than 95% stevioside and/or rebaudioside A, two forms of steviol glycosides.

The E.F.S.A. panel pointed out the ADI could be exceeded by both adults and children if the sweeteners are used at the maximum levels proposed in the three petitions. According to Cargill, the ADI of 4 mg per 1 kilogram of body weight is equivalent to about 23 teaspoons of Truvia tabletop sweetener every day over the course of a lifetime. Projected use levels were based on provisional industry estimates. In practice, maximum use limits in certain food and beverage categories may need to be adjusted before the European Union issues a final regulation, according to Cargill.

Two other stevia extract suppliers, GLG Life Tech Corp. and PureCircle, also reacted with optimism to the EFSA panel findings.

GLG Life Tech Corp., Vancouver, B.C., already has sought distributors for its products throughout Europe. David Bishop, executive vice-president of international affairs for GLG Life Tech, said he would expect the European Commission to approve the use of stevia extracts in foods and beverages because of scientific studies, the previous approvals of other countries and the E.F.S.A. panel’s ADI being similar to JECFA levels.

“I cannot think of a reason why it would not happen,” he said. “I, of course, could be surprised.”
Peter Milsted, PureCircle European vice-president, said, “The fact that E.F.S.A. has confirmed the safety of using stevia as a sweetener is a very important step forward toward approval for the use of stevia in the E.U. Our customers will be extremely encouraged by this announcement, and it is a strong sign that European consumers will soon be able to choose naturally sweetened, reduced calorie products based on stevia, just like consumers in many other parts of the world.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in December 2008 said it had no questions about two petitions regarding the safety of using rebaudioside A, an extract from the stevia plant, in foods and beverages.

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