Safety of Stevia has been well proven worldwide and
the plant and extracts have been widely used in South
America for hundreds of years and in Asia for over
40 years, stevia products are still facing many restrictions.
Most countries in Asia and South America have embraced
stevia has the ideal sweetener where it is used as
a food ingredient or equivalent. However, countries
such as the United States and Canada have yet to allow
stevia derivatives to be used as a food ingredient.
For now, it can only be used as a nutraceutical ingredient
or food supplement. In Europe, stevia derivatives
are officially not allowed to be used in any food
or nutraceutical products.
Ironically, stevia was freely sold in
North America in the 1980’s but in a strange twist
of fashion US FDA started to seize stevia products
in 1991 claiming that they were insufficient scientific
evidence to assure that stevia could be used safely
as a food substance. This decision was made despite
the fact that stevia had been widely consumed by millions
of people from its native origins in South America
to Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, USA, and other countries
for so long with no side effects ever being recorded.
Due to public pressure, the FDA was
forced to change its stance and in 1994 allowed the
sale of stevia under a ‘food supplement’. Since then,
several lobbying groups in the United States have
filed petitions with the FDA to make stevia to be
considered as GRAS (generally recognized as safe).
In all cases, US FDA has rejected the petition emphasizing
that JECFA ((FAO/WHO Joint Expert Committee on Food
Additives) had yet to establish an ADI (Acceptable
Daily Intake) for stevia.
Recent events hopefully will assist
review its position again since in May 2004, JECFA
for the first time determined a temporary ADI for
stevia glycoside sweetener at 2mg/kg body-weight/day.