Stevia: Why the FDA isn’t So Sweet

January 12th, 2009

The makers of Pepsi and Coke recently received FDA approval for their new stevia based PureVia and Truvia sweeteners. While this may sound like good news, it only signifies the hipocrisy and corruption of the FDA.

Stevia is a genus of plant commonly found in South America. The extract of one particular species of this plant, rebaudiana, has been used as a natural sweetener in South America for over 1,000 years and in Japan since the 1970s. It has no calories, has no effect on blood sugar, and is up to 300 times sweeter than sugar. For a long time, stevia has been highly regarded in natural health circles as an excellent and natural alternative to sugar.

The Ban

In 1991, based on controversial research, the FDA banned the use and import of stevia in America. Under pressure, the FDA later revised their policy in 1995 to allow the use of stevia, but only under the regulations of a dietary supplement.

However, as recently as 2007, the FDA has made claims that stevia is unsafe. Although it’s approved for use as a dietary supplement, it’s not approved for use as a food additive and the FDA has denied multiple requests for stevia to be used in food.

What About Aspartame?

Aspartame is the synthetic sweetener found in products like Nutrasweet and Equal and is the sweetener used in popular diet sodas such as Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi. It’s considered by many to be the most dangerous food additive on the market and is associated with serious disorders including cancer and severe allergic reactions that can lead to seizure and death. As such, you shouldn’t take the dangers of aspartame lightly.

If the FDA is so concerned about safety, why have they had such issue with a natural plant based sweetener while overlooking the dangers of a toxic chemical? And despite the dangers of aspartame, it’s use is still alive and well. All you have to do to confirm this is look for Nutrasweet or Equal packets in a restaurant or read the list of ingredients on a can of Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi.

Money Talks

The two new stevia based sweeteners approved by the FDA, Truvia and PureVia, are associated with the makers of Coke and Pepsi respectively. Stevia itself is not patentable because it’s a natural substance, but when you apply a processing formula and add a few ingredients, it is. And having a patent brings the money making potential to justify the high cost of FDA approval. Of course this is just my opinion, but it certainly sounds like the FDA suddenly changed their mind about stevia once Coca-Cola and PepsiCo came knocking on their door with their checkbooks in hand.

If you don’t believe the FDA would do such a thing, you may want to read this article about what FDA scientists are admitting.

Who to Trust?

On the FDA’s website, right on their logo, it says “protecting and promoting your health” with the emphasis on “your” just as I typed it. But who’s health are they promoting, ours or the food industry’s?

If you can’t trust the FDA, then who can you trust? That’s a very important question for anyone hoping to achieve optimal health. Although it’s a question that requires finding your own answer, you shouldn’t trust an opinion based solely on the credentials of it’s source. It’s your responsibility to be well informed and able to think critically when assessing your needs because the only person truly accountable for your health is you!

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