BLOOMINGDALE, ILL. — Stevia FSE, a stevia-based sweetener that is enzymatically treated to remove a bitter aftertaste, has received self-affirmed Generally Recognized As Safe status, according to HealthCo, a division of NOW Health Group, Inc. The company also has filed a GRAS notice with the Food and Drug Administration, said Beth A. Pecenka, business strategy manager for NOW Health Group.

HealthCo will sell Stevia FSE as a food ingredient in the formats of bulk powder, private label consumer sizes, and food-service bulk packets. An independent panel of scientists reviewed safety and toxicology data to give Stevia FSE its GRAS status, which allows manufacturers to add Stevia FSE in a variety of foods and beverages ranging from baked foods to milk products, breakfast cereals, cheese, egg products, processed vegetables, soft candy, soups, snack foods, non-alcoholic beverages, imitation dairy products, hard candy, chewing gum, granulated sugar, seasonings and flavors, according to HealthCo.

The FSE in Stevia FSE stands for Full Spectrum Extract, Ms. Pecenka said. The ingredient uses the whole stevia leaf and is not an isolated fraction, like Reb A, which may require additional substances to mask a bitter aftertaste, according to HealthCo. Stevia FSE is more than 95% naturally occurring steviol glycosides and glycosylated steviosides, including a significant level of Reb A, Ms. Pecenka said.

The natural enzyme treatment in Stevia FSE enhances its organoleptic (sensory) properties. The food grade enzyme is similar to natural plant enzymes, Ms. Pecenka said. It is a processing aid and does not end up in the product. Stevia FSE involves a different enzyme than the one used as a processing aid in the creation of high-fructose corn syrup, Ms. Pecenka said.

Stevia FSE is 60 to 100 times sweeter than sugar (sucrose). Other stevia-based sweeteners may be 200 times or more sweeter than sucrose, but Stevia FSE is significantly less expensive per kilogram than Reb A, Ms. Pecenka said. She added Stevia FSE offers a well-rounded flavor, which means a formulator may use Stevia FSE without modifying ingredients such as erythritol to cover the bitterness of Reb A.