Quality standards proposed for stevia-derived sweetener

By Sarah Hills

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Stevia

Food and beverage manufacturers are being invited to help set quality standards for the sweetener Reb A through the Food Chemicals Codex Forum.

The US Pharmacopeial (USP) Convention is inviting interested parties to comment on a proposed Rebaudioside A (Reb A) standard to be included in the Food Chemicals Codex (FCC), which is a compendium that sets benchmarks for the identity, quality and purity of food ingredients.

The USP said the request was in response to the growing popularity of the natural sweetener, derived from the stevia leaf, and the aim was to help food and beverage manufacturers assure the product's quality for consumers.

Once developed, the USP said the monograph and associated reference standards will “provide an objectively established standard against which both producers and purchasers can compare their ingredients to assure their quality”​.

Use of Reb A in food and beverages in the US is poised to increase sharply following the recent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) letters of no objection to GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status for rebiana, (Reb A) at 95 percent purity or above.

Darrell Abernethy, chief science officer for USP, described the FCC standard as “critical” ​because the sweetener is relatively new in the US.

Abernethy said: “As US manufacturers begin to incorporate this new ingredient into their products, it is important for these companies and, ultimately, consumers to have some sort of assurance that the Rebaudioside A being used is of high quality, is free of harmful contaminants and is consistent in its contents from one batch to the next.

“By proposing a standard that all manufacturers - in the United States and around the world - can participate in the development of and subsequently choose to adhere to, USP and food and beverage manufacturers can partner to assure the quality of this ingredient.”

The company ChromaDex, which develops analytical standards for ingredients, recently entered into an agreement with Cargill to ensure quality and consistency of stevia.

ChromaDex said it offers a range of stevia-related sweet compounds as analytical reference standards or research materials and food and beverage companies can validate stevia-derived rebiana for use in consumer products.

The analytical tools are expected to be used by Cargill in its production process to make sure quality benchmarks are met.

Timescale

The proposed standard became available for review over 90 days at the FCC Forum section of USP's Web site on December 31, 2008.

After this comment period, USP's Food Ingredients Expert Committee of independent, scientific experts will approve the final monograph to be included in the 2009 FCC supplement later this year.

This will outline specifications related to the ingredient's identity, purity and potential impurities, and will include supporting analytical test procedures and use of USP chemical reference standards.

USP is a private, non-profit, standards-setting organization with the aim of helping to ensure the quality, safety, and benefit of medicines and foods. USP says its standards are recognized and used worldwide.

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