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Steviol Glycosides in Food

Introduction

  1. Steviol glycosides (a mixture of compounds in which steviol is bound to different types of sugar) are natural constituents of plant Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni. Leaves of this plant contain at least ten different steviol glycosides with major ones being stevioside and rebaudioside A.

  2. The stevia plant is native to South America, but it is now also grown in several Asian countries, including China. Nowadays, Brazil, China and Paraguay are the leading producing countries of steviol glycosides.

  3. Leaves of the stevia plant have been used for a long time in Brazil and Paraguay to sweeten food and beverages. Steviol glycosides have now been used as a high intensity low calorie sweetener in many countries. Steviol glycosides are about 200 – 300 times sweeter than sucrose.

Safety of Steviol Glycosides

  1. Steviol glycosides have been evaluated and determined to be safe by the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization/ World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA).

  2. In June 2008, JECFA allocated an ADI of 0-4 mg/kg bw for steviol glycosides, expressed as steviol.

Regulatory Control

  1. The Codex Alimentarius Commission has included provisions for the use of steviol glycosides in a variety of food categories since 2011. For example, steviol glycosides may be applied in table-top sweeteners, as well as savoury snack foods, soft drinks, and even soybean sauces.

  2. Steviol glycosides are permitted to be used as sweeteners in food in countries like Mainland China, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, the USA and European Union.

  3. In Hong Kong, according to the Sweeteners in Food Regulations (Cap. 132U), steviol glycosides are permitted to be used as sweeteners in food since 2010.

Advice to the Public

  1. Maintain a balanced diet so as to avoid excessive exposure to certain food additives including sweeteners.

  2. For personal concern and medical reasons over the use of sweeteners, seek advice from medical professionals.

Advice to the Trade

  1. Ensure the products comply with local regulations, including food additives and labelling requirements.

  2. Observe Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) when using sweeteners with the lowest possible level required. 
Risk Assessment Section
Centre for Food Safety
September 2014
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Last Revision Date : 30-09-2014