Coca-Cola has filed 24 patent applications for stevia
Over the past half year, stevia has been the focus of attention as the search for a perfect natural sweetener continues. But why are the birds circling when the ingredient has not been approved in the two major Western markets - the United States and Europe?
GILBERT, Ariz.—Wisdom Natural Brands' stevia product, SweetLeaf�, was affirmed GRAS (generally recognized as safe) by two groups of independent scientists. FDA only requires one independent GRAS affirmation, which Wisdom initially received from GRAS Associates, a leading consulting firm for the food industry headed by two former senior scientists at FDA's GRAS review branch.
The process involved an extensive review of published research and toxicology studies as well as international standards for the safe use of stevia in food. However, in confirming safety for GRAS purposes also through the Life Science Research Office (LSRO), which also performs FDA contract work, Wisdom stated it went to the next level of self-GRAS status.
"Such a 'self-GRAS plus' process differentiates Wisdom from other companies seeking to market natural sweeteners for food use, and should provide its customers with a level of confidence not found elsewhere in the industry," said the company, in a statement.
According to the company, by gaining two independent GRAS confirmations, it has beat bigger competitors to the market for stevia with this level of safety for food use. "I feel like the David that beat Goliath,” said Jim May, founder and CEO of Wisdom. "We have been working behind the scenes for months to get SweetLeaf Sweetener™ to market before any of our competitors, and now that we see they won’t have product available until much later, we definitely have a competitive advantage."
02-Jul-2008 - Ingredients group Blue California says it expects to obtain self-affirmed generally regarded as safe (GRAS) approval for its stevia-derived sweetener compound by next month.
The company claims that the independent GRAS review, which began in February of this year, had recently completed its preliminary findings on the available science, and the final paper work should now be completed during August.
Blue California's announcement follows on from similar claims by a rival ingredient maker that it is near to launching a stevia-based sweetener product for general food use onto the US market for the first time. The product has only been previously available in the US as a dietary supplement.
The manufacturer claims that its Rebaudioside A 99 per cent, derived from the South American plant stevia rebaudiana, can be up to 400 times sweeter than sugar and at its intended levels, should not cause any harm.
Steiva, as a sweetener, has been found to offer taste with a slower onset and longer duration than that of sugar, although some of its extracts may have a bitter or liquorice-like aftertaste at high concentrations.
However, Blue California executive vice president Cecilia McCollum claimed that she was extremely confident that Rebaudioside A, which the company has been producing since December 2007, will now pass all requirements for its self-affirmation.
"Blue California was extremely confident from the very beginning that a product of this level of purity would easily meet the safety requirements for GRAS self-affirmation and the level of scientific data necessary to meet FDA's required criteria for safety," she stated.
"[The FDA's safety criteria is a] reasonable certainty in the minds of competent scientists that the substance is not harmful under the intended conditions of use."
Despite the company's confidence over the issue, acceptance for the use of Stevia in food formulation from EU and US regulators has remained elusive.
I wonder if the lobbyists for the sugar and corn (fructose) growers might be exerting their influence.
If so, they've not been entirely successful. Truvia will be on store shelves soon.
NEW YORK, July 9, 2008 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- To offer consumers the "First Taste Moment" of Truvia(TM) natural sweetener, the new zero calorie, great tasting sweetener, Cargill opens the Truvia(TM) Greenhouse at Rockefeller Center from July 9 - 11 in New York City.
The Greenhouse coincides with the initial retail availability of Truvia(TM) natural sweetener at select D'Agostino supermarkets in New York City. Forty-count packages of Truvia(TM) natural sweetener are also available for purchase online at www.truvia.com for $3.99 plus shipping/handling.
22-Oct-2008 -Two producers of stevia said they have taken heart that the natural sweetener will achieve GRAS status in the US after its recent approval for use in foods and beverages in Australia and New Zealand.
PureCircle which recently signed agreements with Pepsico and Whole Earth Sweetener Company to supply high purity Reb-A under the PureVia brand, said that the move could help open up the US market.
Commenting on the decision by the Australian food authority FSANZ, which also covers New Zealand, Magomet Malsagov, chief executive of PureCircle said: "This is great news and reinforces our belief that we will soon see similar approvals in the United States, the world's largest market, and in Europe, where Switzerland has already taken the lead in giving the go-ahead for PureVia Reb-A to be used in mainstream F&B (food and beverage) production.
"Consumers are demanding a natural and healthy solution to the global obesity epidemic and other health issues resulting from high sugar usage. “As an all-natural and calorie-free product, PureVia Reb-A is seen as providing that solution."
Stevia is permitted for sale in the US as a dietary supplement on the basis of its low glycemic index but is yet to have FDA (Food and Drug Administration) GRAS status for use in food and beverages.
Meanwhile, Sunwin International Neutraceuticals, which produces zero calorie stevia in China, also applauded the FSANZ decision.
President and Chairman Laiwang Zhang, commented: “We are pleased to see this market expansion opportunity and yet another major confirmation of stevia's safety for countries presently considering full approval of stevia as a sweetener.
“We are hopeful Australia's decision will add further support for the US FDA to acknowledge stevia to be Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) in the US in the very near future.
“GRAS status will permit stevia to be used in food and beverage products in the US, which we expect could triple stevia sales."
The US market for stevia is estimated to be worth about $60m, a figure analysts say could triple with FDA GRAS. Currently the biggest markets for stevia are Japan and Korea.
Pepsi and Coca-Cola are both active in bringing their own stevia brands to the market based on rebiana, or Reb-A, the sweetest, purest part of the stevia leaf, and reportedly about 200 times as sweet as sugar.
Coca-Cola has teamed up with Cargill to use its rebiana brand, called Truvia. Cargill is already selling Truvia online as a table-top sweetener but the beverage companies are yet to sell drinks with the sweetener in the US.
Cargill and Merisant have notified the FDA that rebiana should be GRAS. However, the US's largest supplier of stevia Wisdom Natural Brands has said that its stevia-based sweetener Sweet Leaf is self-affirmed GRAS, without FDA notification, and the ingredient will be available in soda or food products by the end of the year.