Reb A suppliers need to promote its safety

Related tags Stevia

Stevia-based sweeteners could suffer the same negative publicity that aspartame has unless suppliers of the ingredient, which has received qualified...

Stevia-based sweeteners could suffer the same negative publicity that aspartame has unless suppliers of the ingredient, which has received qualified approval for use in France, do more to tackle its critics.

There have been widespread reports about adverse health effects associated with the consumption of raw stevia - notably regarding reproductive health and kidney function.
Cargill, which supplies the refined product, points to numerous recent rigorous scientific studies that have given it the all clear. In conjunction with Coca-Cola, it has developed technology to extract the active ingredient Rebaudioside A (also known as Reb A, a steviol glycoside extracted from stevia leaves).
Cargill has commissioned various studies over the past few years. They have been designed to evaluate the safety of Reb A and have included metabolism and pharmacokinetic studies, general and multi-generational toxicology tests, plus intake and human studies.
Elizabeth Fay, head of communication for Truvia Europe, reported that these studies had confirmed the positive safety of rebiana for all consumers. She was speaking at a food safety conference organised by Leatherhead Food Research last week. Truvia Europe is the arm of Cargill producing its patented product Truvia rebiana, which is claimed to be 97% pure Reb A.
“Unresolved safety questions were primarily based on crude extract or dried stevia leaves,” said Fay. “Our research programme was to ensure our product was safe.” She reported that 12 papers evaluating the safety of Reb A had been published in reputable scientific publications, such as Food and Chemical Toxicology.
Fay suggested that what had so far prevented stevia take-up was the “confusion” in the market about it and lack of safety data. “We need to do a better job on communicating the work that has been done on proving the safety of pure stevia.”
Speaking earlier to Food Manufacture​, Fay said Cargill was working with more than 100 customers in Europe alone to develop products containing Reb-A. “Some are already making products for export to markets where Reb-A is already authorised. Some are developing new products for the European market so that when Reb-A is approved here, they are ready to push the button.”
Stevia had distinct technical advantages over some other high intensity sweeteners in that it was light, heat and acid stable. That made it suitable for acidic juice drinks and pasteurised dairy products, said Fay.
As altering formulations of established global brands such as Diet Coke was risky, major customers were typically using Reb-A to launch products, she said.
The price of Reb-A, which was more expensive than rival sweeteners, was not a barrier to progress and prices would come down as it became more widely available, she said.
Fay reported last week that the European Food safety Authority was currently reviewing a Cargill submission regarding the use of steviol glycoside in food and drink. It expected this to be completed by the second quarter of 2010. Two other submissions, one from the European Stevia Association and one from a Japanese company, were also being evaluated, she added.

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