Stevia has demonstrated some promise as a safe and healthy alternative to artificial sweeteners. This writer has tried Stevia in the past and was frankly disappointed with the taste. But that might all be about to change.
There has been much excitement about the promise of Stevia as a natural alternative to artificial zero-calorie sweeteners. Here is a summary of the science behind Stevia so far.
Interest in the sweetener has been intense, particularly since the FDA issued its non-objection in December that the stevia-derived sweetener Reb A is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) as a food additive.
Differentiation must be made between rebaudiside A and steviol glycosides in general. Rebaudioside A, also known as Reb A and rebiana, is a high-intensity sweetener derived from the Stevia leaf. It is said to be approximately 200 times sweeter than sugar.
The majority of the science around Stevia and rebaudiside A are related to its safety. A significant body of research published online in the peer-reviewed journal Food and Chemical Toxicology (July 2008, Vol. 46, Supplement 1, Pages S1-S92), which found that rebiana – a high-purity Rebaudioside A from stevia – is safe for use as a sweetener for foods and beverages.
An overview in the journal’s supplement by scientists from Coca-Cola, Cargill, and an independent toxicologist said that the studies found the ingredient met all current JEFCA (Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives) specifications for steviol glycosides.
“The due diligence of the rebiana scientific program reported in this Supplement reflects a commitment by industry partners to, at long last, fully address regulatory requirements for this naturally occurring sweetener by providing the scientific basis to conclude high purity rebaudioside A (rebiana), produced under current
GMP to food-grade standards, is safe and appropriate for introduction into the global marketplace,” they concluded.
The FDA issued letters of no objection to GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status for Stevia-based Reb A at 95 percent purity or above in December
Scientists have also been exploring ways to mask the licorice or bitter flavors associated with the Reb A Stevia extract. The problematic aftertaste has presented difficulties for companies wishing to use the sweetener, and flavor companies have been trying to find ways to mask it without detracting from the perceived benefits of its natural status.
Cargill recently announced a dual-layered approach, starting with its patented technology examining taste responses to Reb A “at a cellular level” and then developing flavor solutions based on these findings.
Comax Flavors released a natural masking flavor in March to mask the bitter aftertaste associated with Stevia-derived sweetener Reb A.
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