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Stevia sweetener gets US FDA go-ahead

18-Dec-2008

The FDA has given the long-awaited green light for Reb A, the sweetener made from the stevia leaf, to be used in food and beverages - opening the flood gates for new product launches.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has concluded that it has no objection to rebiana, (Reb A) at 95 percent purity or above, having GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status as a general purpose sweetener for food and drink, not just as a supplement.

Two applicants, Merisant Company and Cargill, had notified the FDA that natural, zero calorie sweetener rebiana should have FDA GRAS and submitted evidence to show that it is safe for use in the food supply. They both confirmed they have received official notification of no objection from the FDA.

And within hours Coca-Cola and PepsiCo announced that their first drinks sweetened with Reb A will be hitting US shop shelves shortly.

Coca-Cola partnered with Cargill to develop their rebiana brand called Truvia, and PepsiCo, along with Whole Earth Sweetener Company (a subsidiary of Merisant Company) and PureCircle, have their own product under the PureVia brand.

Marcelo Montero, president, Cargill Health & Nutrition, said: “Given the extensive research conducted to assure the safety of Truvia rebiana, Cargill has tremendous confidence in the product.

“The FDA letter further validates what the science has concluded - that Truvia rebiana is safe for use for all consumers.”

The Malaysian company PureCircle, which boasts of being the world’s largest supplier of high-purity Reb A, also supplies Cargill with the ingredient.

Surging demand

The US is a key market for the natural, zero calorie sweeteners which can be used as a complement to sugar or a substitute for synthetic sweeteners.

Peter Milsted, PureCircle sales and marketing director, told FoodNavigator that receiving no objection from the FDA means that stevia will now move into the mainstream in the US and product launches by PepsiCo and Coca-Cola will signal to other companies to follow suit.

He said: “I think we will see an incredible increase in momentum.

“It now opens the door for Reb A to be used right across the food spectrum.

“Initially what we will see in the market place is beverages. But we have seen interest for food products.

“Other manufacturers now will feel sufficiently confident to go ahead and incorporate it in their own product development.”

He added that companies had been experimenting with applications for dairy, bakery and confectionery products, including boiled sweets and chewing gum.

Milsted stressed it was important for PureCircle that FDA GRAS was for 95 percent purity because “it separates it completely from stevia extract, which doesn’t have that kind of purity level as Reb A”.

Product launches

Coca-Cola North America said Sprite Green and Odwalla juice drinks, due to go on sale this month, would be the first of what it expects to be many US products sweetened with Truvia.

PepsiCo said its first US PureVia sweetened products would SoBe Lifewater in three different flavors, due to hit stores “shortly”.

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