Calls for stevia certification

By Sarah Hills

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Stevia

As the stevia circus rumbles on, the need for certification to ensure quality and clarity has been highlighted by a company which develops analytical tools for ingredients reference standards.

Frank Jaksch, CEO and president of ChromaDex, told FoodNavigator-USA.com that “everyone all of a sudden is popping out of the woodwork with some sort of stevia products”.

Steviol glycosides - the extract of the leaves of the plant stevia rebaudiana - are a group of intense sweeteners, which include stevioside and rebaudioside A. But he said there is confusion in the marketplace because there are a variety of different stevia compounds.

Stevia is permitted for sale in the US as a dietary supplement but it does not have FDA (Food and Drug Administration) GRAS status for use in food and beverages.

Merisant and Cargill have notified the FDA that rebiana (the common name for high-purity Rebaudioside A from stevia) should be GRAS and a response is expected shortly.

If the FDA issues a letter of no objection, it will signal that the sweetener can be used in food and drink and a “flood”​ of other products is expected.

Meanwhile, ChromaDex announced last week that it has entered into an agreement with Cargill to ensure quality and consistency of stevia as it will supply global analytical reference standards and research materials for the individual sweet components of stevia.

Jaksch said: “There has been a huge increase of demand for these standards over the past six to 12 months.

“It has been mainly in the US but we have seen interest in other countries as well.

“If the FDA files no objection to the pending information that has been submitted there is obviously going to be a lot of people out there trying to sell a product.”

However, he questioned what sort of a products people were trying to represent when they say they have a stevia sweetener, as it may not be comparable.

Jaksch added: “If someone is going to be representing that their material is approved because these other companies had no objection, wouldn’t you imagine that they probably should be similar.

“If it’s a mixed steviol glycosides product it needs to be represented as that and labeled appropriately.”

He said that having some sort of certification would make it clearer whether a product was a mixture of stevia compounds such as rebaudioside A and B, or if it contained one compound.

Regulation changes

The Australian and New Zealand food standards authority recently approved steviol glycosides for use in foods, while in June 2008 the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) concluded that stevia extracts containing 95 percent steviol glycosides are safe for human use in the range of four milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day.

Coca-Cola recently teamed up with Cargill to use its rebiana brand Truvia and PureCircle recently signed agreements with Pepsico and Whole Earth Sweetener Company (a subsidiary of Merisant Company) to supply rebaudioside A under the PureVia brand.

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