BRUSSELS, BELGIUM — Steviol glycosides extracted from the stevia plant have been approved for use as non-caloric sweeteners in the European Union, according to the Official Journal of the European Union on Nov 12.

“The final hurdle in the regulatory process for steviol glycosides — the scrutiny of the regulation by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers — has been cleared,” said Maria Teresa Scardigli, the executive director of the International Stevia Council.

As a result, products sweetened by steviol glycosides may be available to European consumers as early as Dec. 2, according to the International Stevia Council.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in December 2008 cleared the way for the use of stevia extracts in foods and beverages when it 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. PureCircle, a producer of stevia products, this year set up an office in London in anticipation of E.U. approval.

“PureCircle and our customers have been preparing for some time in anticipation of European approval,” said Jason Hecker, vice-president of global marketing and innovation for PureCircle Ltd., which is based in Malaysia and has a U.S. office in Chicago. “Our entire line of stevia ingredients, including our recent launch of breakthrough sweetener PureCircle Alpha, fully meets E.U. specifications. With our portfolio of solutions and our broad reach through joint ventures with leaders in the sugar industry, including Nordzucker and Tereos, we are fully prepared for a new exciting stage of stevia development in Europe.”

GLG Life Tech Corp., a supplier of stevia extracts based in Vancouver, B.C., said it has established distributor agreements with seven ingredient distributors to sell the company’s stevia extracts to the European market. The distributors are Caldic Ingredients B.V.;, Emilio Pena SA (EPSA); Gusto Faravelli S.P.A.; Keyser & Mackay; Nordman, Rassman GmbH; and PK Chemicals.

The European Food Safety Authority, after evaluating the safety of steviol glycosides as a sweetener, on March 10, 2010, established an acceptable daily intake (A.D.I.) of 4 mg/kg bodyweight/day. Conservative estimates of steviol glycoside exposure, both in adults and children, then raised concern the A.D.I. would be exceeded at maximum proposed use levels.

“In order to ensure that the exposure is safe for the consumer, the requested uses and use levels had to be revised,” the European Union said on Nov. 14, 2011. “Therefore, further consultation with E.F.S.A. and the applicants took place to propose levels that are safe and, at the same time, that allow the products to function as sweeteners.

“The use of stevia is now authorized at appropriate levels for 31 different food categories, including soft drinks, desserts, confectionery and table top sweeteners.”