The stevia research is piling up. And it looks good.

Knowledge may be power, but it’s also likely to make you more anxious…if that knowledge is about sweetening agents in food.

It’s hard to keep the warnings and blessings straight. There’s all that rabid interest in carb and glycemic levels in foods for example. Or the perils of high-fructose corn syrup, and that old, familiar lab-rat killer: aspartame.

Photo courtesy of Ethel Aardvark/Wikipedia

(Last Sunday’s daunting and fascinating piece in The New York Times Sunday Magazine on the evils of sugar has brought the conversation to a new and higher pitch.)

On the up side, the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) has cleared away some of the confusion—or at least assured us that a whole lot of research has been done–by publishing a piece on the extensive research completed (and continuing) on sweeteners made from the stevia plant.

The April 2011 issue of Food Technology carries an article by Robert S. McQuate reminding us that the compounds which make the stevia plant sweet have been approved for use in dietary supplements since 1995, and since 2008, “high-purity steviol glycosides and high-purity rebaudioside (Reb) A compositions that have been determined to be GRAS are permitted in foods in the U.S.” (GRAS meaning “generally regarded as safe.”)

The work already done on this product is impressive, as is the potential market for it.

McQuate reports that South America, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, France and several Asian countries have studied and permitted some use of sweeteners derived from the stevia plant. He traces, in considerable detail, the regulatory path to date. If you’re a worrier—this is all good.

–The Food Watchdog Staff


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