Is Stevia Safe?
Stevia is a plant that has been used as a sweetener for hundreds of years. Today, zero-calorie stevia, as high-purity stevia leaf extract, is being used globally to reduce energy and added sugar content in foods and beverages.
Stevia refers to different forms of the sweetener, including the whole plant Stevia (S rebaudiana Bertoni) and the leaves where the sweet compounds are found. Stevia extract is a generic name for a preparation made by steeping the leaves of the Stevia plant to extract the sweet compounds from the leaf material.
Purified Stevia Leaf Extract
High-purity stevia leaf extract contains 95% or greater steviol glycosides. Only high-purity stevia extracts meeting this specification are approved by major regulatory agencies, including the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization (WHO) Expert Committee on Food Additives and Codex Alimentarius (Codex) for use in foods and beverages.
What is an ADI?
The acceptable daily intake, or ADI, is the average daily intake of a food additive expressed on a bodyweight basis over a lifetime that is expected to be safe based on significant research (WHO 2009). The ADI is usually expressed in milligrams of the additive per kilogram of bodyweight per day (mg/kg bodyweight/day).
What is GRAS?
FDA stands for the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA is a federal agency of the United States that is responsible for protecting and promoting public health. Generally Recognized as Safe or GRAS is an FDA designation for a substance that it considers as safe.
Substances are added to food either as food additives or as GRAS. A food additive or non-GRAS ingredient can be added to a food, however, it is subject to premarket review and approval by the FDA, whereas companies can use GRAS ingredients without FDA approval.
Are Stevia Sweetener Safe to Consume?
The answer to the question above is yes. The Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) is the amount of a substance that people can consume in food or beverages on a daily basis during their whole life without any appreciable risk to health. Several regulatory authorities have rigorously evaluated more than 200 studies on animals and humans examining the safety of high-purity steviol glycosides. Based on this evidence, JECFA has established an ADI that applies to adults and children. The ADI is expressed as steviol equivalents of 4 mg/kg of body weight per day. Because all steviol glycosides are metabolized to one common end product, steviol, this equates to approximately 12 mg of high-purity stevia extracts/kg of body weight per day.
The usage of Stevia extracts as a sweetener for human consumption has been approved by major regulatory authorities across the world. More than 150 countries have approved and or adopted the safe use of stevia leaf extract in a variety of foods and beverages.
In 2008 and 2009, the Food and Agriculture Organization, World Health Organization’s Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), a global panel of food ingredient safety experts, and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated the use of high purity Steviol glycosides (≥95%) is safe for human consumption.
The European Commission authorized the use of high purity Steviol glycosides (≥95%) in foods and beverages across the European Union in 2011.
Ashwell, M. (2015). Stevia, nature’s zero-calorie sustainable sweetener: A new player in the fight against obesity. Nutrition today, 50(3), 129.
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