The South American herb stevia, which is used as a natural sweetener, has been called an “unsafe food additive” by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The FDA sent a letter to Hain Celestial Group Inc, maker of Celestial Seasonings herbal teas, saying the stevia used in some of their teas may be dangerous to blood sugar and reproductive, cardiovascular, and renal systems.
Stevia is several hundred times sweeter than sugar, and has no calories. Though it’s approved as a dietary supplement in the United States, it is not approved as a food additive. A dozen other countries, including Japan, China, and Brazil, have approved the sweetener however.
Beverage giants including Coca-Cola Co. are eyeing stevia as a new low-calorie sweetener, but while the FDA has received requests to use stevia in food, they say "data and information necessary to support the safe use have been lacking."
The Center for Science in the Public Interest also believes that data is lacking to support the safety of stevia in food.
Coca-Cola and Cargill Inc. are working to prove the safety of the herb, but in the meantime, Hain plans to change their stevia-containing teas’ labels to state that they are supplements, not foods.
Hain Celestial Group, Inc., Warning Letter August 17, 2007
Stevia has also been used in Japan since the early 1970s to sweeten pickles and other foods.
In the United States, however, the FDA has turned down at least three industry requests to use stevia in foods.
Please understand that Japan is not encumbered by the same conflicts of interest as the United States, and most of their research is not directly financed or greatly influenced by the very industry that is seeking to promote a product. So in this environment stevia has proven to be safe.
What is ironic, of course, is that while the FDA is scrutinizing this naturally sweet herb, they maintain a historically generous attitude toward synthetic chemical sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose.
To use stevia as a commercial food additive would require years of testing. Even though this sweetener has passed the test of time, it is viewed as dangerous until proven otherwise.
Not so with the big-name artificial sweeteners on the market; they are innocent until proven guilty.
In the United States, stevia has been the subject of searches and seizures, trade complaints, and embargoes on importation. Many believe that the FDA’s actions regarding stevia are nothing more than a restraint to trade designed to benefit the artificial sweetener industry.
Stevia is not the only natural sweetener that is being unfairly targeted by the FDA. A pair of entrepreneurs tried unsuccessfully to create a natural sweetener based on a West African berry called Synsepalum Dulcificum, for instance.
However, in 1974 the FDA ruled that their natural product was a food additive that needed years of testing before it could be used commercially. Now here’s the kicker: that very same year, the FDA approved the dangerous artificial sweetener aspartame.
Is Stevia Safe for Everyone?
Unlike aspartame and other artificial sweeteners that have been cited for dangerous toxicities, stevia is a safe, natural alternative that's ideal for those watching their weight and anyone interested in maintaining their health by avoiding sugar.
Some don’t like its taste, but other than that it is nearly the ideal sweetener.
It is hundreds of times sweeter than sugar and truly has virtually no calories -- unlike the lies and deceptions with regular artificial sweeteners, which are loaded with other sugars to make them flow better.
I want to emphasize, however, that if you have insulin issues, I suggest that you avoid sweeteners altogether (including stevia), as they all can decrease your sensitivity to insulin. So if you struggle with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or extra weight then you have insulin sensitivity issues and would benefit from avoiding sweeteners.
But for everyone else, if you are going to sweeten your foods and beverages anyway, I strongly encourage you to consider using stevia.
Stevia can be used in appetizers, beverages, soups, salads, vegetables, desserts -- virtually anything! It is, hands down, the best alternative to sugar you will ever taste.
You Want to Know Something REALLY Interesting?
Re-read my recommendation on stevia in the preceding paragraph and realize that if I sold stevia on my site I would be in direct violation of the “law,” which specifically restricts anyone from making ANY claim on the use of stevia as a sweetener. Since I don’t sell it, I can tell you what I believe.
It truly is amazing how the food industry has manipulated and distorted the laws to serve THEIR purposes -- not for your protection or benefit.
If you are a protein or mixed nutritional type, be sure to check out Luci Lock’s video on how to make a “yummy scrummy” cream soda using stevia and other nutritious ingredients.
Finally, if you would like to know more about the startling truth surrounding artificial sweeteners -- and why I don’t recommend them -- I encourage you to read my book Sweet Deception.