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Organic Consumers Association

FDA Continues Pushing Natural Herb Sweetener Stevia Out of U.S.

  • Organic Consumers Association, 9/19/2007

Hain Celestial Group Inc., the maker of Celestial Seasonings teas, received a warning from U.S. regulators that some of its powdered drink mixes contain an unsafe herb.

Some Celestial Seasonings tea mixes, called Zingers to Go, contain a South American herb, stevia, that must be removed from teh pruducts, the Food and Drug Administration said in a warning letter posted Tuesday on its Web site.

Stevia is a main staple sweetener in many countries, including Japan and China, where it's found in multiple food products.  Companies including Coca-Cola Co. and Cargill Inc. have been developing products that substitute stevia for artifical sweeteners like aspartame, but the FDA currently bans any food product from containing the natural sweetener.

''While FDA has received inquiries and petitions for the use of stevia or stevia extracts in food, data and information necessary to support the safe use have been lacking,'' according to the FDA letter. But on the FDA's own website, a GRAS petition submitted to FDA in 1995 cited over 900 Stevia studies, none of which indicated any safety concerns regarding human health.

According to the American Herbal Products Association, "Stevia leaf is a natural product that has been used for at least 400 years as a food product, principally as a sweetener or other flavoring agent.  None of this common usage in foods has indicated any evidence of a safety problem.  There are no reports of any government agency in any of the above countries indicating any public health concern whatsoever in connection with the use of stevia in foods."

The agency's letter named the company's Zingers to Go Tangerine Orange Wave Herb Tea as containing the additive. Other flavors of the Zingers to Go powdered drink mix also were labeled on the company's Web site as containing stevia, according to the letter.

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Stevia Quotes

 "The petition cites over 120 articles about stevia written before 1958, and over 900 articles published to date. In this well-chronicled history of stevia, no author has ever reported any adverse human health consequences associated with consumption of stevia leaf."  Supplement to GRAS affirmation petition no. 4G0406, submitted by the Thomas J. Lipton Company February 3, 1995

 "According to the Herb Research Foundation, numerous scientists, and tens of millions of consumers throughout the world, especially in Japan, the herb is safe and intensely sweet, which could make it a popular noncaloric sweetener."  Rob McCaleb, president, Herb Research Foundation, Boulder, Colo., USA

 "...as a scientist with over 15 years researching the safety of stevia and of many other plants used as food or food ingredients, I can assure that our conclusions in these various studies indicate that stevia is safe for human consumption as per intended usage, that is, as a sweetener."  Mauro Alvarez, Ph.D., Brazil

 "Stevia leaf is a natural product that has been used for at least 400 years as a food product, principally as a sweetener or other flavoring agent.  None of this common usage in foods has indicated any evidence of a safety problem.  There are no reports of any government agency in any of the above countries indicating any public health concern whatsoever in connection with the use of stevia in foods."  Gras affirmation petition submitted on behalf of the American Herbal Products Association, April 23, 1992

 "...various extract forms of stevia have been extensively studied and tested.  These tests include acute, sub-acute, carcinogenic evaluation and mutagenicity studies.  These scientific data, while not directly relevant or required for exemption under the common use in food proviso, nevertheless demonstrate cumulatively that there is no safety problem associated with the use of an extract of stevia. It appear to be extraordinarily safe."  Introduction to GRAS affirmation petition submitted by the American Herbal Products Association, April 23, 1992

"(The FDA action on stevia is) a restraint of trade to benefit the artificial sweetener industry." Jon Kyl (R), AZ in a 1993 letter to former FDA Commissioner David Kessler about the 1991 stevia "import alert."

"Stevia has a political problem." Rob McCaleb, president Herb Research Foundation

"I had one guy from the FDA tell me 'if we wanted to make carrots (be) against the law, we could do it.'" Kerry Nielson, former director of operations at Sunrider International, discussing the 1985 FDA seizure of his company's stevia.

"Even if they have reviewed these studies, the only possible way to report that the results showed detrimental effects is by taking information out of context.  If this is the case, one concludes that these FDA scientists are incompetent and irresponsible, or if not, they must belong to some sort of conspiracy group to carry on a sinister agenda against this plant with the objective to keep it away from American consumers by attributing to it safety issues that do not exist." Mauro Alvarez, Ph.D., responding in a 1998 letter to the fact that the FDA cited stevia studies he conducted as evidence that stevia is unsafe.
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Stevia Links:

Read and discuss Stevia in OCA's web forum:
http://organicconsumers.org/forum/index.php?showtopic=205

Link to scientific studies regarding stevia: http://www.stevia.net/safety.htm

FDA's updated Stevia Detention list (FDA alert indicating that food products containing Stevia shall be detained at the border and refusal to import):
http://www.fda.gov/ora/fiars/ora_import_ia4506.html

FDA Warning Letter to Celestial Seasonings:
http://www.fda.gov/foi/warning_letters/s6500c.htm

For more information on this topic or related issues you can search the thousands of archived articles on the OCA website using keywords:

Safetreker
post Sep 20 2007, 06:34 PM



The FDA is at best, a feeble organization. To have the use of stevia encouraged, not only jeopardizes the refined sugar companies -bottom line- but think of the number of drug companies effected if the number of diabetic/obesity problems begin to decline. It's always about the money. Not the good of the people.

euph
post Sep 20 2007, 07:31 PM


I have no problem with taking the FDA to task on this or many other matters; as safetreker notes, there's a direct correlation between their decisions and the cries made by the pharm and food industries. But citing China as an example of a country that uses stevia is a bit disengenuous -- we are seeing too much evidence of the blindness of China's government to health issues. China has a long history of lead in its food products and now we're getting continual reports of lead-based paint in toys manufactured in China. There was the "little" problem with the tainted pet food earlier this year. Please, leave China out as a stellar example.

freeandez
post Sep 20 2007, 07:56 PM


We need to get involved, people! The FDA is the least of our worries if the CODEX UN resolution is fully realized here in the US.
Check out this video about Mel Gibson getting raided:
http://www.voteronpaul.com/

Janet
post Sep 20 2007, 08:19 PM


The sugar industry is not very sweet! I agree with the comment about about negatively connecting stevia with 'China'. I live in Italy and get my Stevia in Switzerland. It seems Swiss sugar can live side by side with stevia.
Comparing ingredients in the products on the grocery shelves, believe me, the sugar is present in significantly more items in the US than the same ones in Europe. For example, I don't get bread, or tomato sauce or sausage or canned vegetables with added sugar in Europe, so the sugar industry is obviously protecting it's interests in the US. Here there are several forms of stevia easily available; leaves, powder, live plants, and an excellent concentrate that comes from Paraguay,indicated for diabetics.
I will stand with you to end this witch hunt.

bjtbwt
post Sep 20 2007, 08:42 PM


This needs to stop!!! What can we do to go against the FDA. They are obviously, once again, being paid off by the interested parties to do this. I have never heard a bad thing about this product and don't want to see them remove it so that people no longer have the use of it. Come on people! Let's band together and get this type of thing stopped!!!!!

Trudy
post Sep 21 2007, 12:47 AM


The FDA is a joke. They have lost all credibility a long time ago. The FDA knowingly approves medicines that kill people, but want to forbid the sale of things that are safe and good for us. Can't help wondering if the secret mission of the FDA is population control?!

Chatterbug
post Sep 21 2007, 04:41 AM


They call this a free country HA! Our ancesters stayed alive for hundreds of years using herbs.The sugar companies think they might lose a dollar if we use Stevia to sweeten our foods.They don't care that people who can't use sugar can use Stevia.Stevia is easily grown so if they want to be this this way about it i will grow my own.It's none of their business what i use as a sweetener or as medicine.It's my body and if i want to use herbs as medicine i will.They can't stop the growth of weeds which are very medicinal and grows everywhere.I suggest everyone start learning the benefical weeds and their uses as food and medicine, because the FDA is about to stop us from using herbs, if we don't stop them in their tracks NOW! I am with you all, lets fight this!

clvngodess
post Sep 21 2007, 01:20 PM


This is most likely about revenue than anything else. Think about the impact this will have on the makers of Aspartame, Saccharine and other chemical sugar substitutes.

No glycemic index to start. No carcinogenic long term side effects. You can bake with this stuff, and it still tastes good. You can use in jams, jellies, pies, ice cream, cakes, cookies, drinks, compotes, etc.
You won't get a sugar crash, you won't pack on pounds (you get both with the other sweeteners since the body interprets them as sugar.)

It's acceptable in weight control, and sugar control (diabetics). It's easy to moderate sweeteness (3x as sweet as sugar. Use 2/3 less.)

And it's natural. An herb.

I'd be pretty threatened too if I was a big dumb corporation (or it's lobby) focused on profits instead of a greater picture of well being.

ishay - israel
post Sep 21 2007, 06:04 PM


a zero-cal sweetener whica balances bloodsugar, a possible cure for diabetes, is being pushed away from the market in favor of toxic sweeteners - and this is being done by the FDA - "watchdog" of americans' health.

The witchhunt against stevia has been going on for years. it's time the public knew of this example of corporate-FDA-buyout, because it is such a gross example - and the truth is just as obvious.

This should be on 60 minute- the kind of story they would like to blow up.

ishay - israel
post Sep 21 2007, 06:11 PM


QUOTE (euph @ Sep 21 2007, 12:31 AM) *
I have no problem with taking the FDA to task on this or many other matters; as safetreker notes, there's a direct correlation between their decisions and the cries made by the pharm and food industries. But citing China as an example of a country that uses stevia is a bit disengenuous -- we are seeing too much evidence of the blindness of China's government to health issues. China has a long history of lead in its food products and now we're getting continual reports of lead-based paint in toys manufactured in China. There was the "little" problem with the tainted pet food earlier this year. Please, leave China out as a stellar example.

you're confusing china - it's people and culture - with chinese government (CCP) and corporate interests. generally, the former is a legacy of medical, human wisdom, the latter - an empire of pure evil.

diana
post Sep 21 2007, 06:12 PM


Please, let's be careful to not overstate. Stevia will allow sweetness in foods for diabetics, without disrupting blood glucose levels, but it is most certainly not a cure. And weight loss/ weight control works best to make people fatter, which is fine but probably not their intention(s), so it's best left behind.

As to the FDA? Heads of that organization move freely in and out of board positions with major pharmaceutical and chemical corporations, sometimes even coming in to approve their own/ former company's drug or chemical.

BTH
post Sep 21 2007, 07:44 PM


Here we go again. Another example of the government lobby interests trying to get something that is a threat pulled. Aspartame is the product that should be pulled but the good old FDA has got people brainwashed that it is safe.

WE THE PEOPLE C A N be a very powerful lobby. You can 'vote' with your purchases at the store. Market research IS finding that the public is getting smart to the food industry! We are starting to question our food sources and THAT is making a lot of government agencies and company CEO's uncomfortable.

We are being make SICK by the food we eat! Learn more about what's IN your food!

AN INFORMED CONSUMER IS A POWERFUL CONSUMER!

sunchaser
post Sep 22 2007, 01:29 AM


Celestial bowed down and discontinued their Zingers to Go along with a few other items that had Stevia in them.

Vermin
post Sep 23 2007, 03:45 PM


Is anyone organizing an action around this? I have used stevia exclusively for the last few years as a sweetener in my tea and it would be a hardship for me if I were no longer able to use it.

ishay - israel
post Sep 23 2007, 04:23 PM


coca cola and cargill to begin using stevia?

if big food companies such as these are beginning to discover stevia, perhaps this will help counter the current FDA effort. The timing of the current move against stevia might be linked to CC's interest: artificial sweetener manufacturers are beginning to feel the ground shake under their feet....so they are pushing up resistance to stevia via the FDA.

ishay - israel
post Sep 23 2007, 04:26 PM


the post was:

QUOTE (Craig Minowa @ Aug 10 2007, 09:47 PM) *
GOOD OR BAD?
COCA-COLA AND CARGILL TO MARKET NATURAL SWEETENER
The beverage and food industries have sought the "perfect sweetener" for decades. It's no secret that standard table sugar (sucrose) and its even worse cousin, high-fructose corn syrup, rots teeth, leads to obesity, and is a major contributor to diabetes. So chemical companies have concocted an armada of synthetic sugar alternatives such as saccharin and aspartame that have been linked to everything from cancer to neurological disorders. Now Coca-Cola and Cargill have announced they have "developed" the perfect natural sweetener. The sweetener is stevia, a zero calorie plant-based sweetener that has been used for hundreds of years. In Japan, 40% of the sweeteners consumed are from stevia, so it can't really be called a "new" sweetener. But here in the U.S., likely due to lobbying of the FDA by synthetic sweetener producers, stevia has been hidden in the shadows by strange labeling requirements that keep the average consumer from even understanding what stevia can be used for. Coca-Cola and Cargill plan to bring a patented version of stevia to the mainstream as the perfect natural sweetener by removing some of the bitter aftertaste. Is this good news or bad news? What's your opinion? Share your thoughts in OCA's web forum. It's easy and quick to sign up and join the online organic community:
http://organicconsumers.org/forum/index.php

captainheather
post Sep 23 2007, 07:04 PM


I would invite anyone worried about his or her access to stevia to buy a 12-inch pot and a stevia plant. I was lucky to find a small organic stevia plant at a nursery this spring, I planted it in my garden, and now it's up to my hip. And it roots easily for cuttings, which I need to do now because although it is a perennial, it will get killed by frost. You can buy starts at various places on line (I found some listed on the growing stevia page at stevia.net) if you can't find it in a nursery.
Sugar is enormously energy-intensive to produce. Even if you're not diabetic, growing your own sweetener crop is a small, wonderful way to be self-sufficient and reduce the carbon foot print of your purchases.

diana
post Sep 23 2007, 08:21 PM


QUOTE (ishay - israel @ Sep 23 2007, 04:23 PM) *
coca cola and cargill to begin using stevia?

if big food companies such as these are beginning to discover stevia, perhaps this will help counter the current FDA effort. The timing of the current move against stevia might be linked to CC's interest: artificial sweetener manufacturers are beginning to feel the ground shake under their feet....so they are pushing up resistance to stevia via the FDA.


Ooh, I thought of another possibility. The FDA's disapproval of stevia might allow the triple C threat to co-opt the stuff that's allowed here in the US. They will "tame" the dangerous stevia by cutting it with known-to-be-safe ingredients like nutri-seizure and acidify-your-brain-K, and even sucra-you-lose(your health). Ugh. I've had people argue with me, obviously having seen the banana/cow/"natural" commercial of a few years back, that aspartame is perfectly, naturally safe, as "it's just made from milk sugar and bananas." Could they market the tamed stuff as a safer artificial sweetener in the US? Yep, and soon we'd be hearing how they, heroes of the modern age, saved us from the dangers of "pure" or "uncut" stevia. <sigh>

Like so many other things, it is a matter of growing your own (thank you captainheather), and hoping the GMO genes are not in the wind. Or taking on Monsanto and BigAg in general. --diana

euph
post Sep 24 2007, 11:12 PM


QUOTE (ishay - israel @ Sep 21 2007, 12:11 PM) *
you're confusing china - it's people and culture - with chinese government (CCP) and corporate interests. generally, the former is a legacy of medical, human wisdom, the latter - an empire of pure evil.


what i'm trying to say is that you don't convince the general public -- which is what we want to do -- to get behind something by using the example of another country that disregards humane and human interest.

turbopink
post Sep 25 2007, 05:41 PM


I just sent a comment to the FDA expressing my outrage at the fact that ONCE AGAIN the health of the citizens of this country are not it's primary focus, but rather it's pocketbooks. Capitalism is running awry to the point where human beings have no intrinsic value beyond how much money they can make for the company or how much money they spend in the economy. I AM NOT AN ATM!!