Stevia approvals overseas renew GRAS hopes

By Sarah Hills

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Stevia, Nutrition

Two producers of stevia said they have taken heart that the natural sweetener will achieve GRAS status in the US after its recent approval for use in foods and beverages in Australia and New Zealand.

PureCircle which recently signed agreements with Pepsico and Whole Earth Sweetener Company to supply high purity Reb-A under the PureVia brand, said that the move could help open up the US market.

Commenting on the decision by the Australian food authority FSANZ, which also covers New Zealand, Magomet Malsagov, chief executive of PureCircle said: "This is great news and reinforces our belief that we will soon see similar approvals in the United States, the world's largest market, and in Europe, where Switzerland has already taken the lead in giving the go-ahead for PureVia Reb-A to be used in mainstream F&B (food and beverage) production.

"Consumers are demanding a natural and healthy solution to the global obesity epidemic and other health issues resulting from high sugar usage.

“As an all-natural and calorie-free product, PureVia Reb-A is seen as providing that solution."

Stevia is permitted for sale in the US as a dietary supplement on the basis of its low glycemic index but is yet to have FDA (Food and Drug Administration) GRAS status for use in food and beverages.

Meanwhile, Sunwin International Neutraceuticals, which produces zero calorie stevia in China, also applauded the FSANZ decision.

President and Chairman Laiwang Zhang, commented: “We are pleased to see this market expansion opportunity and yet another major confirmation of stevia's safety for countries presently considering full approval of stevia as a sweetener.

“We are hopeful Australia's decision will add further support for the US FDA to acknowledge stevia to be Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) in the US in the very near future.

“GRAS status will permit stevia to be used in food and beverage products in the US, which we expect could triple stevia sales."

The US market for stevia is estimated to be worth about $60m, a figure analysts say could triple with FDA GRAS. Currently the biggest markets for stevia are Japan and Korea.

Pepsi and Coca-Cola are both active in bringing their own stevia brands to the market based on rebiana, or Reb-A, the sweetest, purest part of the stevia leaf, and reportedly about 200 times as sweet as sugar.

Coca-Cola has teamed up with Cargill to use its rebiana brand, called Truvia. Cargill is already selling Truvia online as a table-top sweetener but the beverage companies are yet to sell drinks with the sweetener in the US.

Cargill and Merisant have notified the FDA that rebiana should be GRAS. However, the US's largest supplier of stevia Wisdom Natural Brands has said that its stevia-based sweetener Sweet Leaf is self-affirmed GRAS, without FDA notification, and the ingredient will be available in soda or food products by the end of the year.

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