Originally published November 10 2013
Many food and beverage products made with stevia components still contain sugar, report finds
by Jonathan Benson, staff writer
(NaturalNews) Growing consumer demand for a healthy, natural sweetener alternative that does not contain sugar or artificial chemicals has created a booming market for stevia extract and stevia-derived sweetener components, both of which are now added to thousands of consumer products and are even available in single-serving packets at many grocery stores and restaurants. But not all products containing stevia are as they seem, as many still contain added sugar and other additives for which consumers should beware.
After the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) back in 2008 issued letters of "no objection" to corporate food giants Coca-Cola and PepsiCo permitting their use of a stevia-derived component known as rebaudioside A, or "Reb A" ( http://www.naturalnews.com/News_000626_stevia_Truvia_FDA.html), the sweetener additive began showing up in all kinds of foods. And because they are derived from plants rather than from chemical laboratories, both stevia and Reb A were quickly embraced by those seeking a natural alternative to toxic aspartame (Equal) and sucralose (Splenda).
But little known to many consumers is the fact that products sweetened with stevia or Reb A often contain added sugar as well. Depending on the type of stevia extract added to a product, its sweetness may also be accompanied by a slight bitterness, a flavor combination to which some consumers object. So to balance out this flavor, some companies quietly add a blend of both stevia or Reb A, and sugar.
"We are trying to find solutions to erase this liquorice taste but it's not easy," said Marilise Marcantonio, Communications Director for Danone Fresh Products, to Reuters Health. Marcantonio's company uses stevia additives in several of its product lines, but has run into roadblocks from customers who are unhappy with natural stevia's aftertaste. "Consumers are looking for natural products -- but not at any price."
According to Tereos PureCircle, a major supplier of a product known as "SteviaSucres," which contains both sucrose and stevia extracts, more than half of all new products containing stevia that were released in 2010 contain added sugar as well. Sixty percent, in fact, of the 604 products examined contain added sugar.
Reb A, PureVia, and Truvia are not the same as all-natural stevia extract It is important to note that the FDA's deregulation of stevia was actually a deregulation of Reb A, a specific steviol glycoside that both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo utilize in their Truvia and PureVia stevia sweetener products. Whole stevia extract actually contains nine other steviol glycosides in addition to Reb A, which means natural stevia extract in its whole form is a completely different product than Reb A, PureVia, or Truvia.
When stevia plants are dried and subjected to a water extraction process, the resulting extract is composed of roughly 50 percent Reb A, as well as a combination of stevia's many other glycosides (http://www.fao.org). And what Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and various other food producers do is extract Reb A from the other glycosides and market it in isolated form because it is one of the sweetest of all the glycosides.
While it has not been shown that Reb A is in any way harmful to health as an isolated steviol glycoside, consumers need to be aware that all-natural stevia extract, which the FDA has not technically deregulated in food, is not the same thing as Reb A and other stevia-based additives that have been approved purely for the sake of enriching corporate interests.
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