OTTAWA — Health Canada has enabled the use of steviol glycosides extracted from stevia leaves in certain foods and beverages, according to a Nov. 30 notice of modification to its list of permitted sweeteners.

Before the approval, stevia extracts were available only as a natural health product in Canada and not permitted as a food additive in foods and beverages, according to stevia company PureCircle, which has a North American office in Chicago.

“After two years of working with Health Canada and other industry members, we’re happy to welcome stevia’s approval,” said Sidd Purkayastha, vice-president of business development and regulatory affairs for PureCircle. “Stevia will play an important role in addressing consumer interest in lower calorie products and natural ingredients, as well as to help offset rising commodity costs for our customers.”

Foods and beverages in Canada that may use steviol glycosides as ingredients now include tabletop sweeteners, breakfast cereals, confectionery glazes for snack foods, nut spreads, peanut spreads, seasonings or coating mixes for snack foods, chocolate confectionery, chocolate confectionery coatings, fruit spreads, purees, salad dressings, sauces, table syrups, beverage concentrations, beverages, beverage mixes, baking mixes, filling mixes, toppings and topping mixes, bakery products, dessert mixes, desserts, yogurt, breath fresheners, chewing gum, condiments, confectionery coatings and confectionery items.

The use of stevia extracts as sweeteners in foods and beverages in the United States dates to December 2008 when the Food and Drug Administration said it had no questions about two petitions regarding the safety of using Rebaudioside A, an extract from the stevia plant, in foods and beverages.