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Cargill Rolls out Stevia-Based Sweetener

July 29, 2008

Cargill has begun marketing of Truvia, a no-calorie sweetener made from certain compounds in the leaves of stevia, a shrub native to Paraguay. Truvia is intended to provide a natural alternative to artificial sweeteners such as Sweet ‘N Low, Equal and Splenda.

Truvia will first go on sale first at a handful of D‘Agostino supermarkets in Manhattan, but will eventually be sold at grocery stores and big box retailers across the country.

A box of 40 packets of Truvia will have a suggested retail price of $3.99, which is slightly more expensive than currently available artificial sweeteners.

Truvia also will be used as a sweetener in beverages and foods starting in early 2009. Coca-Cola co-developed the product with Cargill and has exclusive rights to use Truvia in beverages. Rivals including PepsiCo and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group are working on their own natural no-calorie sweeteners.

Stevia is approved as a food additive in a dozen countries including Japan, Brazil and China, but not in the European Union or the United States. It can only be sold in the U.S. as a dietary supplement. However, since Truvia is made only with compounds from the stevia plant, it can be legally used as a natural sweetener.

It’s really quite fascinating; it’s “dangerous” to use regular stevia as a food additive, yet it’s suddenly perfectly safe when you use only the active ingredient… 

Remarkably, the South American herb Stevia -- which has been used as a natural sweetener for over 1,500 years in South America – is actually considered an “unsafe food additive” by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), citing it may be dangerous to your blood sugar and reproductive, cardiovascular, and renal systems. (It is, however, approved as a dietary supplement in the United States, you just can’t use it as a food additive in processed foods.) 

Was Stevia Deemed Non-GRAS to Keep the Market Open for Truvia? 

The fact that stevia has been used as a sweetener for over 1,500 years is a major clue and testament to its safety.  

However, we know nothing about what might happen if you consume large quantities of only the active ingredient of the herb… Oftentimes it’s the synergistic effect of all the agents in the plant that provide the overall health effect, which includes “built-in protection” against potentially damaging effects.

Truvia may turn out to be a very good substitute to sugar, but I’d have to see some more details before giving it a thoroughly enthusiastic thumbs-up.

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. 

Well, the industry has now finally hatched their golden goose egg, and since stevia cannot be used in foods, Truvia stands to gain an enormous market share as its most natural competition has been successfully squelched.

Is Stevia Safe? 

Unlike aspartame and other artificial sweeteners that have been cited for dangerous toxicities, regular stevia is a safe, natural alternative that's ideal if you’re watching your weight, or if you’re maintaining your health by avoiding sugar

One of my biggest treats now is to have a bottle of La Croix sparkling water flavored with some English Toffee stevia. However, some don’t like the taste of stevia, but other than that it is nearly the ideal sweetener, and without question, the safest sweetener on the market.

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. 

The only problem is that any company using stevia cannot state that it is being used as a sweetener without risk of the FDA coming in and seizing and destroying all their product.  

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. 

If You Suffer Certain Health Problems You May Want to Avoid Stevia As Well

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 ALL sweeteners.

But for everyone else, if you are going to sweeten your foods and beverages anyway, I strongly encourage you to consider using regular stevia until the safety of Truvia has been thoroughly assessed.

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