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Stevia

Food and Beverage Giants Lining Up to Cash in When Stevia Gets GRAS Approval in U.S.

Friday, May 23, 2008 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: stevia, health news, Natural News


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(NaturalNews) Even though stevia has not been authorized as a food ingredient in the United States, a number of food, beverage and ingredient companies are investing significant money to expand production for what they view as its inevitable approval.

Stevia, a sweetener derived from a South American plant, is said to have approximately 300 times the sweetness of sugar, with a slower onset and longer duration. Because it has no significant effect on blood sugar and has essentially zero calories, it has attracted attention as a natural, non-synthetic sugar alternative. While stevia tends to have a slightly bitter aftertaste, producers claim to have eliminated this drawback with new processing methods.

Although the Food and Drug Association (FDA) allows stevia to be used only as an ingredient in dietary supplements, the agency has said that it expects a petition to grant stevia Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status any day.

Coca-Cola has filed 24 patent applications for stevia in the United States, and has teamed up with Cargill to begin marketing the sweetener. Media reports suggest that the companies are preparing to petition the FDA.

Meanwhile, Malaysian ingredient firm PureCircle is raising $50 million to expand its stevia production by three times in the next two years. The company has already secured patents on a technique for extracting Rebaudioside-A, one of the sweeteners found in the stevia plant.

U.S. company Blue California has also developed a process for extracting Rebaudioside-A. Through comments that its process allows the price of stevia to be competitive with that of sugar, the firm has indicated that it is viewing stevia as more than a dietary supplement. While the company is only planning to begin small-scale production of the sweetener, it says that it is preparing the infrastructure to be able to scale up significantly once stevia is approved for foods and beverages.

Stevia is approved for use as a food and beverage ingredient in a handful of countries including Brazil, Canada, China and Japan.

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