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EFSA, the European Food Safety Authority, and stevia

The relationship between EFSA - the European Food Safety Authority - and the stevia sweetener, has known some ups and downs over the years, like the issues between stevia and the FDA in the United States. But now, it seems they're able to co-exist peacefully.

 

A first attempt of getting stevia green-lit in Europe was made in 1997, when a first application was handed in for the approval of stevioside and for its classification as a Novel Food. Unfortunately, the application was turned down by the European Commission in 1999, due to a lack of scientific evidence supporting the safety of stevia glycosides. Although convinced of the obvious benefits of the little green plant, the petitioners just didn't have the funds to provide the necessary information. 

Sadly,  the stevia sweetener was banned from the European market in 2000.

efsaStevia supporters worked hard in the following years to get all the paperwork done to prove the harmlessness of the sweet leaf. In recent years, under the supervision of Dr. Jan Geuns of the University of Leuven, Belgium, a new dossier on the safety evaluation of stevia and stevioside was put up by the European Stevia Association (EUSTAS), and sent to EFSA. Finally, the application was approved in April of 2010, thus effectively welcoming the stevia sweetener on the European marketplace.

Let's look at a paraphrase of some of the findings of the panel:
   

  • No accumulation of steviol glycoside derivatives occurs in the body. They're either completely absorbed, or leave the body through urine.   
  • The results of toxicological testing indicated that steviol glycosides are not genotoxic, carcinogenic, nor associated with any reproductive/developmental toxicity.   
  • Single doses of 1000 mg steviol glycosides/person/day did not affect glucose homeostasis and did not affect blood pressure in individuals with normal glucose tolerance or type-2 diabetes mellitus.   
  • After considering all the data on stability, degradation products, metabolism and toxicology, the Panel establishes an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) for steviol glycosides, expressed as steviol equivalents, of 4 mg/kg bw/day.

So there you have it, the myths about the dangers of stevia have been officially refuted, stevia sweetener is officially approved and found safe for consumption. European manufacturers are currently in the race for a top spot in the stevia niche, because they know all about the little plant's potential. 

 

It won't be long now before the first products hit the European shelves, and after a long battle, stevia supporters all over Europe will be able to breathe a sigh of relief. 

 



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