Over the past few decades, the regulatory environment for stevia has been difficult.
Globally, scientific bodies and stevia companies have lobbied regulatory authorities for the approval of stevia as a food and beverage ingredient. Many countries only allowed stevia to be consumed as a dietary supplement or not at all.
In fact, up until 2008, over 20 countries Japan, Korea, China, India, Indonesia, Israel, Malaysia, Taiwan, Paraguay, Brazil, Russia & Switzerland approved of the use of Stevia as a food additive and sweetener.
Stevia was banned in Singapore, Hong Kong and the EU, with the remaining countries having no specified directive towards the use of stevia.
Stevia’s Safety Verified by UN FAO/WHO Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives
2006 marked an important landmark for the Stevia Sector, when the UN FAO/WHO Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives declared that “Stevioside & Rebaudioside A are not genotoxic in vitro or in vivo” after extensive research conducted over the past decade.
In June 2008 the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives had more good news for the stevia sector, when they doubled the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) Level for stevia.
In giving their stamp of approval for stevia sweeteners, the JECFA stated, “95% Steviol glycosides are safe for human use in the range of four milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day”.
JECFA’s findings marked the beginning of a slow revolution in Stevia’s Tight Regulatory Environment.
Following the JECFA’s announcement in June 2008, the first regulatory body that granted its approval for stevia was Food Standards Australia & New Zealand (FSANZ), when they amended the Australia New Zealand Food Standards code to permit the use of Steviol glycosides as food additives.
But the biggest regulatory turnaround came from the US.
Stevia in America – A Fascinating Tale & Happy Endings.
In the later part of the 1980s, Stevia was quickly gaining momentum as a popular sweetener in the United States. Stevia’s rise was unfortunately curtailed when an anonymous complaint was lodged with the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration), stating that stevia was being used as an unapproved sweetener.
The long and short of this was that the FDA banned the import of stevia in 1991, and changed the classification of stevia from food to ‘food additive’.
After years of pressure from consumers and the health food industry, Congress passed the Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act in November 1994, and in September 1995, the FDA finally lifted its four year import ban on stevia.
However, the reintroduction of stevia to the United States was limited to its sale as a dietary supplement, and prohibited its use as a sweetener or flavouring ingredient in any food products.
The tide turned for Stevia in the US on 17 December 2008, when the FDA issued a letter of no-objection to Cargill & Merisant’s use of 95% or above purity level stevia sweeteners as a food and beverage ingredient. This was in response to Cargill and Merisant filing for GRAS (Generally Recognised as Safe) status for their Stevia sweeteners for use in food and beverages.
While FDA’s “No Objection” is still not a direct “approval” it has nevertheless opened up the huge US sweetener market for the Stevia sector, and will translate to a drastic growth in the global stevia markets in 2009.
Will EU Approve Stevia? Experts are saying yes.
The EU’s ban on stevia places it out of sync with the current global regulatory environment, but it is believed that the EU could grant approval for stevia as early as 2010.
The European Stevia Association (EUSTAS) which submitted their application to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) believes that the FDA’s decision and JECFA’s announcement will influence the EFSA’s decision on stevia.
When the EU approves Stevia, it will once again create tremendous market opportunities within the stevia sector.
Getting a leg up on upcoming opportunities in Stevia.
These regulatory landmarks all herald the opening of new markets for the stevia sector, in the US, Australia and New Zealand. More importantly, Stevia will hit the shelves as a table-top sweetener and food additive, as opposed to a dietary supplement.
With the value of the stevia market expected to touch the $1 billion mark (source: AP-Foodtechnology.com), getting that edge over the market will translate to excellent returns for the Stevia sector. There is therefore an even stronger need to understand the unique prospects and challenges that will emerge from these new developments.
To make sense of the changing Stevia markets, we’ve put together the world’s FIRST Global Stevia Industry Conference Stevia World 2009, which will be held on 14-15 May in Shanghai, CHINA.
The conference will give you the opportunity to get the latest updates on the regulatory status of stevia around the world, and more importantly, on the opportunities the regulatory environment is creating in the stevia sector.
In short, Stevia World 2009 is your opportunity to get ahead of the Stevia markets, and get on top!