E.U. panel sets daily intake for stevia extracts

by Jeff Gelski
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PARMA, ITALY — The European Food Safety Authority’s scientific panel on additives has established an acceptable daily intake (ADI) for the safe use of steviol glycosides of 4 mg per kilogram (2.2 lbs) of body weight. The panel’s assessment has been sent to the European Commission, which will consider whether or not to authorize the substances in the European Union for their proposed use, particularly in sugar-free or reduced-calorie foods.

Steviol glycosides are high-intensity sweeteners extracted from the stevia leaf. Toxicological testing showed the substances were not genetoxic, carcinogenic or linked to any adverse effects on the reproductive human system or for the developing child. The level of 4 mg per kilogram of body weight is consistent with levels established by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA).

The E.F.S.A. panel reviewed three petitions for the use of steviol glycosides in the European Union before establishing the ADI. The sweetening mixtures in all the petitions were not less than 95% stevioside and/or rebaudioside A, two forms of steviol glycosides. The E.F.S.A. panel pointed out the ADI could be exceeded by both adults and children if the sweeteners are used at the maximum levels proposed in the three petitions.

The panel also noted that in experiments the extent of degradation of the tested steviol glycoside (rebaudioside A) that occurred ranged from a few percentage points up to 63% under different storage (pH and temperature) and food production conditions. In the presence of high temperatures, such as those caused by heating and baking, substantial degradation of steviol glycosides might take place, according to the panel. Steviol glycoside (rebaudioside A) was more stable at a pH between 4 and 6 and at temperatures between 5 degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit) and 25 C (71 F).

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in December 2008 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.

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