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  This article is reprinted from Frontier Co-op Herbal Newsletter, January 2009:

   We sell Stevia at the HerbFest and our plants are organically raised.  For many years we've had a steady stream of customers wanting to buy Stevia and asking for directions as to how to use as a sweetener ( we recommend drying leaves, crumbling, and using).
The jury is still out on the use of Stevia as a substitute sweetener for diabetics and as more information becomes available we will keep you informed.

FDA Approves Sweeteners Made from Stevia Plant

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of two new zero-calorie sweeteners made from the stevia plant. They have done this by means of a no-objection letter. Now -- a pressing question in the minds of many in the industry: what is the impact of this?

According to Anthony Young, Esq., Partner, Kleinfeld Kaplan & Becker and General Counsel, AHPA, as with all matters regulatory, "the devil is in the details."

Young explains that an ingredient for use in food must be an approved food additive, generally recognized as safe (GRAS), or a food itself. Stevia is an ingredient that is added to food for its technical or functional effect (i.e., sweetening), and thus is not a food staple. The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA) did not create an exception from the food additive amendments for ingredients like colors, sweeteners or preservatives which exert only a technical or functional effect in the food. If an ingredient is not an approved food additive (olestra, the artificial fat discovered by Procter & Gamble, was the last major food additive approved by FDA), then it must be GRAS for use in food.

In early May 2008, Whole Earth Sweeteners and Cargill submitted separate GRAS notices to FDA. FDA then reviewed the dossier and published a letter indicating that the agency "has no questions" at this time regarding the proposed use. These notifications mean:

- The two ingredients from these companies may be used in accordance with the terms of their notifications in food or in dietary supplements as sweeteners.

- FDA is generally in agreement that stevia is GRAS for use in certain foods under certain conditions.

- Other manufacturers of stevia may go through the GRAS self-affirmation process with some level of confidence that FDA would not dispute their GRAS self-affirmation.

Only the products from companies that have done a GRAS status review and have the documentation on file can sell stevia as a sweetener. Eventually, more and more companies will do this, and stevia sweeteners will become commonplace. Accordingly, stevia labeled and sold as a dietary supplement is not approved as a sweetener, and should not be promoted as such in your store.
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