Commission Midday Express, 5 July 2011
Products containing the natural sweetener steviol glycoside could be placed in the EU market as early as next year after the Member States endorsed yesterday a Commission proposal authorising the use of the sweetener in several categories of foodstuffs.
Steviol glycoside is extracted from Stevia rebaudiana, a plant originating from Paraguay. The extracts have up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar and can be therefore used as natural sweeteners for the production of low-calorie drinks. The Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) voted yesterday in favour of the Commission proposal to authorise steviol glycoside. The text will now be subject to the scrutiny of the European Parliament. At the end of the procedure, steviol glucoside could be authorised in the EU by the end of the year.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) evaluated the safety of steviol glycosides and published its opinion of 10 March 2010. EFSA concluded that steviol glycoside is not carcinogenic, genotoxic or associated with any reproductive or developmental toxicity. However, conservative estimates of steviol-glycoside exposure, in adults and children, suggested that it, when the sweetener would be used in all the foodstuffs at the levels requested by the applicants, is likely that the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) for steviol glycoside -expressed as steviol equivalents- of four milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) of bodyweight could be exceeded at the maximum proposed use levels. The ADI is the levels below which the exposure is safe. The Commission has therefore proposed reduced levels, taking into consideration both the safety of the consumer and the need for new energy-reduced products that would be beneficial from a health perspective and stimulate innovation. The proposed levels will allow a significant replacement of sugar in foodstuffs with steviol glycoside. At the same time the endorsed proposal reassures that the EFSA-established ADI will not be exceeded.