Stevia Extracts Win FDA approval

The Food and Drug Administration declares stevia, a natural, zero-calorie sweetener derived from the stevia plant, as safe for use in foods in beverages.

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The FDA on Dec. 17 declared a natural, zero-calorie sweetener derived from the stevia plant as safe for use in foods in beverages, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The agency’s non-objection to petitions clears the way for Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo Inc. and other companies to use high-purity stevia extracts in a variety of products.

The FDA issued letters to Cargill Inc. and Whole Earth Sweetener Co., a unit of Merisant Co., stating that it has no objections to their separate claims that rebaudioside A, a highly purified derivative of stevia, poses no health threat when used in foods and beverages. Both companies filed notices with the agency in May claiming the sweetener should be generally recognized as safe (GRAS).

The Journal also reported Coca-Cola will introduce a version of Sprite with the sweetener in Chicago and New York this month at special locations and events, with a broader rollout to retail outlets early next year. The company is also introducing two flavors of a juice drink in its Odwalla line this week using the sweetener, and plans to put it in a new reduced-calorie version of Glaceau Vitaminwater to be released early next year.

PepsiCo, which is using a different version of the sweetener, plans to put stevia in two drinks for the U.S. market: a zero-calorie SoBe Lifewater and an orange juice drink called Trop50, containing half the calories of orange juice, the Journal reported. PepsiCo already launched an enhanced water drink with the sweetener in Peru, where stevia is approved for use in foods and drinks. It says the drink has been selling well there.

Both Cargill and Merisant already sell tabletop versions of the sweetener.

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