all, the sweet leaf
plant is 100% natural, has no calories and no glycemic index. The main
problem with any natural
sugar subtitute though, lies in the monetization potential:
you can't patent them (unless you mix them with an artificial product,
slap a name on it and patent that name - we'll cover that a bit later).
Therefore, a natural product such as stevia could potentially mean a
devastating blow for profits, once people found out it existed.
A nationwide witch-hunt was inevitable: the FDA published reports of
dubious studies on stevia (some of these studies were funded by
aspartame producing companies), branding the sweetener as unsafe and
spreading rumors about stevia causing cancer and infertility in rats.
Later though, these dangers
of stevia would be refuted. An import ban on stevia was set
in place and large amounts of the sweet leaf plant were consequently
destroyed at the border.
anti-stevia movement reached its peak in 1998, when the FDA ordered
the Texas-based Stevita Company, led by Mr. Oscar Rodes, to destroy its
publications on the plant's history and safety, as well as cookbooks
promoting the use of stevia in various recipes. They claimed that the
distribution of this literature was an infringement on the stevia ban,
and thus the law.
the media got word of this story, the FDA was
bombarded with questions and complaints, and they eventually caved. The
books weren't to be destroyed after all, but Mr. Rodes was forced to
remove any indications from his stevia products that suggest the use of
raw stevia to sweeten food.
the books? Their covers were stamped by
the FDA, so that they could no longer be sold - an act for which the
FDA is not even authorized...
Up until 2008, the FDA still labeled the chemically altered rebaudioside
A extract as safe as a dietary supplement, but raw stevia as
a sweetener is unsafe as a food additive... Are you still with me? But,
as is often the case, lobbying and pressure from big companies swayed
the vote. This time though, in favor of stevia. At the end of 2008,
Coca Cola (with Truvia) and Pepsi (with PureVia) must have thought: "if
you can't beat them, join them!".