France first in Europe to anticipate Stevia approval

Posted by Janice Wong on 2nd June 2009

Food manufacturers in France are hoping to be the first in Europe to use the high-intensity stevia extract Rebaudioside-A (also known as Reb A and Rebiana), before the rest of continent receives full approval, reported Food Navigator USA.

In 2000, the European Commission refused to accept stevia (also known as stevioside) as a novel food or food additive respectively because of a lack of critical scientific reports on stevia and the discrepancies between cited studies with respect to possible toxicological effects of stevioside and especially its aglycon steviol.

Belgium researchers in 2004 released a report “The Safety of stevioside”, which concluded that stevia is safe; as it is not carcinogenic, has no effects on male or female fertility, and only low amounts are needed for sweetening purposes, which are too low to pose a health risk.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) since, has received petitions for stevia sweeteners; from EUSTAS (the European Stevia Association), Cargill and Merisant, pushing for the approval of stevia. Pending a positive outcome, this could mean that extracts with 95 per cent steviol glycosides could be approved in Europe under new sweetener laws by the end of two years.

However, transition arrangements can be made in the meantime, which can authorise a new sweetener. This process, lasting two years, which France is taking, will speed up the sweetener’s break into the European market – and by the conclusion of two years, it is expected that the EU will have given full approval.

Earlier this year, The French Food Safety Authority (AFFSA) approved the use of 97 per cent purity Rebaudioside-A and ministerial authorisation is anticipated later this year.

The early approval in France could mean that other major European countries will follow. As food and manufacturers in Europe aim to promote healthier products, the anticipated approval of stevia is expected to be one of the ways existing brands can reduce sugar levels.

In the USA, both Pepsi and Coca-Cola launched stevia beverages last year, and Dr Pepper Snapple in its sports drink line.