Sunday, December 18, 2005

Stevia Leaf - Too Good To Be Legal?

Here is an article that I found to be of interest. A few things are dated but you get the point.

Rob McCaleb

Herb Research Foundation

For hundreds of years, people in Paraguay and Brazil have used a sweet leaf to sweeten bitter herbal teas including mate. For nearly 20 years, Japanese consumers by the millions have used extracts of the same plant as a safe, natural, non-caloric sweetener. The plant is stevia, formally known as Stevia rebaudiana, and today it is underwholesale attack by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Stevia is a fairly unassuming perennial shrub of the aster family (Asteraceae), native to the northern regions of South America. It has now been grown commercially in Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Central America, the United States, Israel, Thailand and China. The leaves contain several chemicals called glycosides, which taste sweet, but do not provide calories. The major glycoside is called stevioside, and is one of the major sweeteners in use in Japan and Korea. Stevia and its extracts have captured over 40% of the Japanese market. Major multinational food companies like Coca Cola and Beatrice foods, convinced of its safety, use stevia extracts to sweeten foods for sale in Japan, Brazil, and other countries where it is approved. Europeans first learned of stevia when the Spanish Conquistadors of the Sixteenth Century sent word to Spain that the natives of South America had used the plant to sweeten herbal tea since "ancient times".

The saga of American interest in stevia began around the turn of theT wentieth Century when researchers in Brazil started hearing about "a plant with leaves so sweet that a part of one would sweeten a whole gourd full of mate." The plant had been described in 1899 by Dr. M. S. Bertoni. In 1921 the American Trade Commissioner to Paraguay commented in a letter "Although known to science for thirty years andused by the Indians for a much longer period nothing has been done commercially with the plant. This has been due to a lack of interest on the part of capital and to the difficulty of cultivation.

"Dr. Bertoni wrote some of the earliest articles on the plant in 1905 and 1918. In the latter article he notes: "The principal importance of Ka he'e (stevia) is due to the possibility of substituting it for saccharine. It presents these great advantages over saccharine:

  • It is not toxic but, on the contrary, it is healthful, as shown by long experience and according to the studies of Dr. Rebaudi.

  • It is a sweetening agent of great power.

  • It can be employed directly in its natural state, (pulverized leaves).

  • It is much cheaper than saccharine.

"Unfortunately, this last point may have been the undoing of stevia. Non caloric sweeteners are a big business in the U.S., as are caloric sweeteners like sugar and the sugar-alcohols, sorbital, mannitol andxylitol. It is small wonder that the powerful sweetener interest shere, do not want the natural, inexpensive, and non-patentable stevia approved in the U.S.

In the 1970s, the Japanese government approved the plant, and food manufacturers began using stevia extracts to sweeten everything from sweet soy sauce and pickles to diet Coke. Researchers found the extract interesting, resulting in dozens of well-designed studies of its safety, chemistry and stability for use in different food products. Various writers have praised the taste of the extracts, which has muchless of the bitter after taste prevalent in most noncaloric sweeteners. In addition to Japan, other governments have approved stevia and stevioside, including those of Brazil, China and South Korea, amongothers. Unfortunately, the US was destined to be a different story. Stevia has been safely used in this country for over ten years, but a few years ago, the trouble began.


Around 1987, FDA inspectors began visiting herb companies who were selling stevia, telling them to stop using it because it is an "unapproved food additive". By mid 1990 several companies had been visited. In one case FDA's inspector reportedly told a company president they were trying to get people to stop using stevia "because Nutra Sweet complained to FDA." The Herb Research Foundation (HRF), which has extensive scientific files on stevia, became concerned and filed a Freedom of Information Act request with FDA for information about contacts between Nutra Sweet and FDA about stevia. It took over a year to get any information from the FDA, but the identity of the company who prompted the FDA action was masked by the agency.

In May, 1991 FDA acted by imposing an import alert on stevia toprevent it from being imported into the US. They also began formally warning companies to stop using the "illegal" herb. By the beginning of 1991, the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) was working to defend stevia. At their general meeting at Natural Products Expo West, members of the industry pledged most of the needed funds to support work to convince FDA of the safety ofstevia. AHPA contracted HRF to produce a professional review of the stevia literature. The review was conducted by Doug Kinghorn, PhD., one of the world's leading authorities on stevia and other natural non-nutritive sweeteners. Dr. Kinghorn's report was peer-reviewed by several other plant safety experts and concluded that historical and current common use of stevia, and the scientific evidence all support the safety of this plant for use in foods. Based on this report, and other evidence, AHPA filed a petition with FDA in late October asking FDA's "acquiescence and concurrence" that stevia leaf is exempt from food additive regulations and can be used in foods.

FDA, apparently attempting to regulate this herb as they would a new food additive, contends that there is inadequate evidence to approve stevia. However, because of its use in Japan, there is much more scientific evidence of stevia's safety than for most foods and additives. The extent of evidence FDA is demanding for the approval of stevia, far exceeds that which has been required to approve even new synthetic food chemicals like aspartame (Nutra Sweet).

AHPA's petition points out that FDA's food additive laws were meant to protect consumers from synthetic chemicals added to food. FDA is trying, in the case of stevia to claim that stevia is the same as achemical food additive. But as the AHPA petition points out, Congress did not intend food additive legislation to regulate natural constituents of food itself. In fact, Congressman Delaney said in 1956, "There is hardly a food sold in the market today which has not had some chemicals used on or in it at some stage in its production, processing, packaging, transportation or storage." He stressed that his proposed bill was to assure the safety of "new chemicals that are being used in our daily food supply," and when asked if the regulations would apply to whole foods, he replied "No, to food chemicals only." AHPA contends that stevia is a food, which is already recognized as safe because of its long history of food use.Foods which have a long history of safe use are exempted by law from the extensive laboratory tests required of new food chemicals. The AHPA petition, however, supports the safe use of stevia with both the historical record, and references to the numerous toxicology studies conducted during the approval process in Japan, and studies by interested researchers in other countries.

To date, the FDA still refuses to allow stevia to be sold in the U.S.but the recently-enacted Dietary Supplement Health and Education Actof 1994 may prevent the FDA from treating stevia and other naturalherbs as "food additives." -- [also]

Is Stevia not ready for Prime time?

Here is an article from

March 21, 2000

Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) Press Release
WASHINGTON - Stevia, a plant-based sweetener that has created a buzz in the health-food world, may pose risks to health and should not be allowed in the food supply until it¹s proven safe, says the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). Extracts of a South American shrub are hundreds of times sweeter than sugar but provide no calories, making stevia a potential natural alternative to such synthetic sweeteners as aspartame and saccharin. Stevia is currently sold as a dietary supplement in powder form at health food stores. 'Although there is no evidence of harm to people, laboratory studies of stevia have found potential cancer and reproductive-health problems. Stevia depressed sperm production in male rats and reduced the number and size of the offspring of female hamsters. Until those concerns are disproven, stevia should not be used by manufacturers in soft drinks, candy, or other foods,' said David Schardt, associate nutritionist for CSPI. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over the past 10 years has rejected three food-additive petitions for stevia because its safety had not been adequately demonstrated. Canada also has not approved its use, and last year a scientific review panel for the European Community declared that stevia is unacceptable for use in food. In an article in the April issue of CSPI's Nutrition Action Healthletter (NAH), Schardt notes that in the test tube a derivative of stevia can be converted into a mutagen. Such chemicals also sometimes cause cancer.'Until we know whether this mutagen is formed in people, stevia cannot be considered safe,' said Schardt. Several studies have also raised concerns about the effect of very large amounts of stevia on carbohydrate metabolism. And that troubles some toxicologists. 'I think we need to be very careful, indeed, as to whether stevia would present a problem for children. The take-home message is simply that we don¹t know enough,' said toxicologist Ryan Huxtable of the University of Arizona in Tucson.

What is ridiculous about this article is that a culture called the Guarani have been using this herb for centuries. These guys can not even get certification on their series of tests. I think that if your test subjects will not die then should this not tell you something about the safety of Stevia?

Stevia. How Sweet it is!

Yes, Stevia is a sweet tasting herb. The Guanari Natives have been using Stevia for centuries in food preparations and medicines.

So why do the FDA in the US and CFIA in Canada refuse to allow Sweet and Sweetner on labels of the Stevia products?

In Europe it is considered a Novel Food item as found in this report 'SCF's opinion on Stevia'.

In Canada it is considered a Novel Food item.

In the US it is considered a Dietary Supplement and to label it as Sweet or a Sweetner would render the product "adulterated," according to the FDA, and make it again subject to seizure.

In the past Stevia has been subject of searches and seizures, trade complaints and embargoes on importation. So much so that Stevia has been handled at times by the FDA as if it were an illegal drug.

This Blog has been created to document and explore these issues and why the Big Companies are so threatened by its use.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Welcome to my blog

Stevia is a sweet tasting herb that was found in valley between Brazil and Paraquay.

I will be reporting on my research about this herb in this blog.
There will be much exploration, data and products that will be linked and discussed.

I hope that you will find this discussion entertaining, inciteful and useful.

My website for the promotion of Stevia is at
I hope you can visit this site and purchase Stevia extracts and seeds.