Products containing sweeteners made from the stevia leaf could be on store shelves across the European Union by the end of this year, after member states voted to authorize the use of steviol glycosides in a range of foods.
The result of the vote, which took place on July 4 at a meeting of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health, is another important step towards full EU approval of steviol glycosides, which were given the safety nod by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) last year.
The authorizations by the member states and EFSA will now be scrutinized by the European Parliament over the coming three months and, providing there are no hold-ups, steviol glycosides should be given final approval before 2011 is out.
The vote was welcomed by the industry. Carl Horn, president of the International Stevia Council, said: “The vote of the Standing Committee on the authorization of the use of steviol glycosides in foods and drinks brings this calorie-free naturally sourced sweetness one step closer to all consumers in Europe, not just those in France where steviol glycosides were approved for use in food nearly two years ago.”
He added: “The next step in the regulatory process for steviol glycosides is scrutiny of the regulation by the European Parliament. The International Stevia Council encourages the European Parliament to support the approval of steviol glycosides as a food additive in Europe so that food manufacturers and consumers throughout the European Union can begin to enjoy the benefits of a natural calorie-free sweetener.”