Calls to reverse FDA action over stevia sweetener

By Sarah Hills

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Dr pepper snapple, Stevia, Food and drug administration

More stevia sweetened products are lining up for launch but campaigners are calling for the FDA decision that signaled that the sweetener could be used in food and beverages to be reversed.

The Dr Pepper Snapple Group is the latest company to join the stevia trend and said it expects to announce the launch of low-calorie drinks made with the natural, zero calorie sweetener in the coming weeks, according to Reuters.

Earlier this week Coca-Cola and PepsiCo said that their first drinks sweetened with Reb A, derived from the stevia leaf, will be hitting US shop shelves shortly.

The announcement came after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it has no objection to rebiana (Reb A) having GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status, clearing it for use in food and beverages.

However, in response to the FDA outcome, Michael Jacobson, executive director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) said: “It is far too soon to allow this substance in the diet sodas and juice drinks consumed by millions of people.

“If president-elect (Barack) Obama's transition team is making a list of last-minute Bush Administration regulatory actions that warrant reversal on January 20, this needs to be added to the list.”

The CSPI highlighted a review of safety data that was carried out by toxicologists at the University of California on behalf of the CSPI, which was made public this summer.

It said that carcinogenicity studies have not found stevioside (which differs slightly from rebiana) to be carcinogenic in rats but further studies on rebiana, including a study on mice, are needed.

The study concluded that the FDA should require carcinogenicity and toxicology studies both in rats and mice before accepting rebaudioside A as GRAS or approving it as a food additive.

Safety record

Cargill, which partnered with Coca-Cola to launch its Reb A brand Truvia, submitted evidence to the FDA to show that rebiana is safe for use in the food supply, as did PepsiCo’s partner Merisant Company for its PureVia Reb A brand.

Yesterday Marcelo Montero, president, Cargill Health & Nutrition, said extensive research was conducted to assure the safety of Truvia rebiana.

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

A spokesman for PepsiCo said, when the University of California review was published: “Everyone agrees that no ingredient should be marketed to consumers until its safety has been proven.

“While we believe the full body of evidence presented to the FDA by multiple sweetener manufacturers demonstrates the safety of this ingredient, ultimately it’s up to the FDA to decide."

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