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Stevia Fact Sheet


Health Canada states:
"Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni is an herbal plant native to South America that is naturally sweet and which yields a sweet aqueous extract that has been used for centuries by Guarani natives of Paraguay as a traditional sweetening substance, added to herbal teas and other beverages. It is cultivated today in Mexico, Paraguay, Central America, Japan, China, Malaysia, South Korea and Canada. The dried leaves are 30 to 45 times as sweet as sucrose. Stevia in the natural herb form including ground or powdered, in the absence of therapeutic or medicinal claims, is acceptable as food for the preparation of herbal tea or beverage. Foods to which stevia in the natural herb form is added as an ingredient, are classified as novel foods . Classification of stevia extracts depends on the nature of the preparation. Impure stevia extracts are actually complex mixtures containing a variety of sweet compounds, including stevioside. Crude stevia extract is considered a novel food, subject to notification requirements. Purified stevia extracts in liquid or crystalline form, in the absence of therapeutic or medicinal claims, and provided they are not represented for use as sweeteners in other foods can be sold in Canada as food supplements; ."

Health Canada further states: "Stevioside is a high intensity sweetener extracted from stevia leaves and isolated and purified. Stevioside is 250 to 300 times as sweet as sucrose. When stevioside is extracted from the plant and used to sweeten other foods that are to be offered for sale, the isolated chemical is considered to be a food additive. Provision has not been established for the addition of stevioside to foods in Canada; stevioside is considered to be a non-permitted sweetener; addition of stevioside to foods in Canada violates Food and Drug Regulations. Further, any safety testing of the product 'stevioside' would require consistent characterization of the tested product. ( Any time a product is the result of extraction of a natural plant, the risk for co-extraction of contaminants, variability of plant species, weed infestation, etc. can result in a poorly characterized product, i.e. not conforming to acceptable specifications, and therefore producing irreproducible toxicity studies ).

When asked: "What about the use as ingredients of stevia and stevia extracts containing steviosides in other foods offered for sale in Canada?" Health Canada responded: "This would depend on the nature of the stevia preparation. If it is actually stevia in leaf, cut up or powdered from or a crude stevia extract ( i.e. as opposed to a purified extract ) then the food in which stevia is used might be considered a Novel Food. The EU ( already ) considers stevia itself to be a Novel Food. It has already been indicated that the Health Protection Branch had no regulations in place a number of years ago when a request to sell the leaves as such was made. The Novel Foods Regulations are new and were promulgated at the end of 1999. These regulations require notification for Novel Foods having no history of safe use and these regulations safety data could be requested. The department cannot control how the consumer used leaves or stevia extracts in the home, but the department can control or at least have the opportunity to evaluate safety data in advance in the case of stevia or stevia extracts ( steviosides ) being used as a sweetening ingredient in other foods which are offered for sale. As stated previously, while stevia extracts may be sold in themselves as food supplements, their representation for use as table-top sweeteners or as high intensity sweeteners in other food render them food additives are subject to pre-clearance."

 


 

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