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FDA Under More and more pressure, the approval of Stevia, the abolition of import ban

30 March 2009 906 views No Comment

(NaturalNews) The American Botanical Council (ABC) has called for the FDA to lift its ban on the importation of stevia for use as a sweetener, in an article by ABC founder and executive director Mark Blumenthal, printed in the organization’s publication HerbalGram.

“The FDA’s import alert is an outdated policy, based on the market and regulatory conditions in the late 1980s,” Blumenthal writes. “If FDA were to rescind its stevia import alert, importers of stevia would still have the burden of confirming safety for use.”

Stevia is a natural sweetener derived from the leaves of the tropical American plant Stevia rebaudiana. Because it has approximately 300 times the sweetness of sugar, it only needs to be used in small quantities to supply a sweet taste. It contains no calories and does not affect blood sugar levels.

The FDA currently prohibits the use of stevia as a sweetener, however, and only allows its importation or use for products labeled as nutritional supplements. In his article, Blumenthal calls these regulations “unreasonable and illogical, [considering] current scientific and medical information supporting the safety of stevia when consumed in relatively small amounts in foods to give them a sweet taste.”

The FDA has already rejected two petitions to grant stevia “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) status, in 1992 and 1994. Growing interest in stevia from the mainstream beverage industry, however, has many analysts predicting that major companies such as Coca-Cola might soon submit another petition, and that this one might have more success.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives, stevia extracts are safe in daily doses of up to four milligrams per kilogram of body weights.

“This paves the way for more regulatory approvals around the world,” Blumenthal writes.

Indeed, Australia and New Zealand approved stevia for use just last month.

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