The scientific name for stevia is Steviarebaudiana Bertoni and it is a memberof the largest family of plants, Asteraceaewhich is also called the “sunflower family”.There are 240 close relatives of stevia and theyare all herbs or shrubs originating from the tropicaland semi-tropical areas of North, Central andSouth America.The discovery of the sweetness of the stevia plantis attributed to an Italian-Swiss botanist, Dr. MoisésS. Bertoni, in 1901. However, researchers believethe use of the plant to sweeten medicines andfoods by indigenous people dates prior to thearrival of the Spanish in the 16th century.What isStevia?Stevia is asmall shrubnative to the regionof South Americawhere the borders ofParaguay, Argentina,and Brazil meet.
Extracting the SweetnessA safe and widelyused sweetenerSuitable foreveryoneFor decades, high purity stevia extracts havebeen approved for use in foods and beveragesin Japan. In the last five years, leading foodsafety and regulatory agencies across theworld have issued positive safety opinions onthe safe use of purified stevia extracts in foodsand beverages.These include the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committeeon Food Additives (JECFA), the French ANSES(National Agency for the Security of Food, theEnvironment and the Work), the Food Standards ofAustralia New Zealand (FSANZ), the US Food andDrug Administration (FDA) and most recently theEuropean Food Safety Authority (EFSA).The sweetness found in the stevia plant is releasedby steeping its dried leaves in water, filtering andseparating the liquid from the leaves and stems,and further purifying the plant extract witheither water or food grade alcohol– all conventional plantextraction methods.The result is a naturallysourced, high intensitysweetener that does notimpact blood glucose levels.Pre-clinical and clinicalstudies show that theuse of stevia extractsis safe for the generalpopulation includingpeople with diabetes,children and pregnantwomen and that thereare no known sideeffects or allergies.
BenefitsThe great clean tasteLong history of useAs a plant-based sugar substitute with no calories,stevia extracts represent the perfect,unprecedented opportunity for consumers whoare looking for a naturally sourced calorie-freesweetening option in their search for a healthylifestyle balance and weight managementprogram. Stevia extracts also do not contribute tothe development of dental caries.Purified stevia extracts have agreat, clean taste very similarto that of sugar. In the past,stevia has been criticizedfor having a bitter, licorice-esq after taste. Not anymore.Higher quality raw materialand advanced extractiontechnologies have beendeveloped by manufacturersthat have focused onisolating the best tasting partsof the stevia leaf.16thCenturyThe stevia plant was first discovered byindigenous people who used the plant’sleaves to sweeten drinks.1901 Dr. Moisés S. Bertoni attributed with the“discovery” of the plant and the plantclassified as Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni.1931 Two French researchers isolated the sweetcomponents (steviol glycosides) of the stevia leaf.1971 Japan began using stevia as a sweetener infoods and beverages.1986 Brazil authorized the use of stevioside (one ofthe steviol glycosides) in foods and beverages,followed by other countries throughout the 1990s.2008 The U.S. Food and Drug Administrationdetermined that stevia extracts are GenerallyRecognized as Safe (GRAS) for use in foods andbeverages.2009 The use of rebaudioside A, extracted from steviaplant, in food and beverages was approved inFrance.2011 The EU gave final regulatory approval for the useof steviol glycosides in foods and beverages.
Frequently asked questionsWhat is stevia and where does it come from?Stevia is a plant of the Asteraceae (sunflower) family, theleaves of which have been used as a sweetener in SouthAmerica for hundreds of years. Extracts from the stevia leafhave been available as food additives (sweeteners) and/ordietary supplements in many countries around the world.How are stevia extracts made?Stevia extracts are made by water extraction and furtherrefining of the sweet components of the stevia leaf.Are stevia extracts natural?Yes, stevia extracts are natural. However, the definitionand labelling requirements regarding “natural” mayvary among countries.How many calories do stevia extracts contribute?Stevia extracts contribute effectively zero calories.Are stevia extracts safe; are there any side effects; dothey cause any allergies?Yes, the safety of stevia extracts has been extensivelyreviewed and scientifically proven by numerous internationalorganizations, such as the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committeeon Food Additives (JECFA) and the European Food SafetyAuthority (EFSA). There are no known side effects or allergiesfrom the use of stevia extracts in foods and beverages.Are stevia extracts safe for consumption by diabetics?Do they affect blood sugar levels? What is their GlycemicIndex (GI)?Research has shown that stevia extracts do not affectblood glucose levels or interfere with insulin. With effectivelyzero calories, stevia extracts offer people with diabetesgreater variety and flexibility in budgeting total calorie intakeand assisting with weight management. Stevia extracts donot have an effect on GI, at the levels of use.Can stevia extracts be used in any kind of food and beverage?Are there restrictions in usage? How do they interact withother sweeteners?Stevia extracts can be used in a wide variety of food andbeverage applications. Individual usages and use levels mayvary depending on the country. They act synergistically whenused in combination with other sweeteners.Are stevia plants genetically modified?No, stevia plants are not genetically modified.Development of new plant varieties takes place byselective breeding and not genetic modification.Where can I find products made with stevia extracts?Hundreds of new products are being launched each yearmade with stevia extracts across a wide range of countriesand products from table top sweeteners to beverages. Steviaextracts have become particularly common in Asia, SouthAmerica, the United States, and recently in Europe.
For more informationwww.internationalsteviacouncil.orgGlobal Office in BrusselsAvenue Jules Bordet142B-1140 BrusselsBelgiumTel: + 32 (0)2 761 16 51Fax: + 32 (0)2 761 16 99US Office in Washington DC750 National Press Building529 14th Street, NWWashingtonDC 20045Tel: + 1 202 591 2467The International Stevia Council is a global trade associationrepresenting the interests of companies that process,manufacture and/or market stevia sweetener products.