After years of only allowing it to be sold as an herbal supplement and deeming it unsafe for foods and drinks, the FDA changed its mind and approved the use of the naturally sweet herb Stevia in various beverages from Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, as you can learn from NaturalNewscom, CBS and TreeHugger.
In other words, drinks sweetened from Reb A, derived from the stevia leaf, now have GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status.
In fact, the CSPI blasts this FDA action as "Bush's parting gift to the soda industry."
Over the years, hundreds of you have asked me where I stand on stevia. In fact, my position has changed as I've learned more about it.
Actually, years ago, I stopped using a clear stevia extract after one company faxed me a list of the many steps required to transform the herb into a white powder or clearish liquid. For instance, for this company, here's what the stevia leaves go through to become a powder or liquid:
Stevia Extract Process
- Stevia Leaves
- Foculation — that's where they put the stevia through sieves to break out the particles
- Ultrafiltration — that's a chemical process, which couuld involve adding harsh chemicals, as one insider revealed to me
- Ion Exchange Column
- Drying (Spay Dryer)
- Stevia Extract
This process leads me to wonder just how natural the extract is, despite claims to the contrary.
Thus, I'm not a fan anymore of the liquid or powder form. As one expert pointed out to me, this process sounds similiar to the lengthy process to turn sugar cane to sugar.
However, I have no objection to using stevia in a more natural state such as steeping one or two naturally sweet leaves or even crushed leaves in your tea. You can find it from companies such as this and this.
As for the newly approved, concentrated stevia from the soda companies, I'm wary of it, too. Obviously, I'm eager to learn more about these processes. I just can't help keep but wondering: Just how natural is it? Will this be close to what you find from the earth or will it, like sugar, barely resemble the original herb?