Stevia, the natural sweetener scientifically known as steviol glycosides, has finally been approved as an ingredient in both foods and beverages in New Zealand and Australia after CQUniversity researched the sweetener for almost a decade and submitted their findings for four years. In early October 2008, FSANZ, the Australian food authority, has finally approved stevia.
Now, stevia is finally being considered across the globe as a sugar substitute because it is very sweet. Dietary supplements of stevia are sold in the United States and individuals in other countries like South Korea, Brazil, and Japan have been taking the stevia supplements for years.
Recently, interest in stevia has increased dramatically and Both Pepsi and Coca Cola have developed no calorie sweeteners from the super sweet stevia plant. Both are trying to have their secret sweetener approved for use in the United States. All beverages are not suitable to the stevia sweetener and Pepsi has noted that the best beverages to use the stevia sweetener would be citrus flavored.
CQUniversity’s Centre for Plant and Water Science submitted the initial application in Australia for every consumer, user, or grower that would potentially be interested in stevia. David Midmore, a professor at the University, explained the stevia application had been developed because it was recognized to be a potential cash crop for farmers. In cooperation with University’s Honorary Fellow and research officer Andrew Rank, Midmore has worked for almost a decade on stevia.
Midmore has stated the problem with going through the approval process is that no company would hold the patent since it is not a new invention. As a result, no company wants to spend the money and time on a product that would be available for every company’s use.
The extract from stevia leaves is called steviol glycosides and they are a type of sugar that is incredibly intense. In fact, they are 250 times sweeter than sugar and stevia can be used in any food or drink that currently claims sugar as one of its ingredients. Before stevia replaces sugar, however, it is believed it will replace chemical sweeteners like those used in diet colas and beverages.
The approval process of stevia has proven its safety and Professor Midmore claims every possible test for safety was conducted and stevia passed each one. It is believed that low calorie drinks will receive an important contribution from CQUniversity due to their research in stevia. A study shows that sugar sweetened beverages may have a minimum of 1700kJ of energy and the same beverage sweetened with stevia has only 7kJ. It is believed that stevia will play an important role in fighting obesity and diabetes type II.
Hundreds of trials across many countries have shown stevia, the calorie free sweetener, is completely safe for use by anyway. FSANZ approved stevia based on the results of these studies in addition to the fact the sweetener has been used for more than 35 years by more than 90 million people in Japan and never has there been a single negative side affect reported or even suspected.
Additionally, as proven by Coke and Pepsi’s ambition, Professor Midmore believes other food and drink manufacturers will happily accept the use of stevia in their products because it is natural, safe, and above all, cheaper than sugar.
To begin with, stevia will probably make its way into beverages in Australia including milk, soft drinks, juices, and cordials. It is also planned for use in other products to reduce their sugar content including breakfast cereals, ice cream, biscuits, yogurts, and the like.
The taste of stevia is not equal to white sugar and it is considerably different. In fact, it tastes somewhat like licorice and will take time for consumers to accept it.