Stevia: The FDA’s Dubious Double Standard

I’ve written a number of times about my favorite sweetener, stevia. It has no calories, it tastes great, and it doesn’t raise your blood sugar. Nor does it come with the potential side effects (like cancer and neurological disorders) of artificial sweeteners. This prompted an ETR reader to ask:

“It seems like everything we use to sweeten food causes health problems. But what about the naturally sweet herb – stevia? Why aren’t more manufacturers using stevia instead of sugar, fructose, aspartame, or high fructose corn syrup? Could it be that stevia costs too much?”

It is not because stevia costs too much. Unfortunately, it involves politics.

Stevia cannot be patented, so it does not have the profit potential of artificial sweeteners. And because it’s much safer, it represents a threat to the multi-billion-dollar artificial sweetener industry. So, these companies have used their lobbying power to wage a campaign against it. And despite the fact that stevia has been used safely for centuries, it was BANNED by the FDA for years – and was even subjected to armed seizures of its manufacturing and storage facilities.

Stevia is no longer banned, but it can only be marketed as a “dietary supplement.” It cannot be sold as a “sweetener” or used as a “food additive.” That’s why you don’t see it in foods, tea, and soft drinks (as it is used in other countries).

[Ed. Note: We want to hear from you. Do you use stevia? What has been your experience with it? And what do you think about the FDA’s double standard – granting carte blanche to the companies that produce artificial sweeteners while restricting our access to this safe, natural alternative? Visit the ETR Speak Out Forum and tell us what you think.]


  • lester suehiro

    tell me more about stevia. botanical name, growth
    habits, processing, etc

  • ELmer Bogle

    The FDA is a complete joke. They are only there to protect the big pharma companies. Especially Monsanto the developer of Asparatame (the most complained about artificial sweetener and most complained about food additive ever).

    BUt that’s for another time.

    Many people make the mistake of calling Stevioside as Stevia. They are not the same thing.

    Stevioside is the extract of the stevia rebaudiana leaf. It is what makes the stevia leaf taste sweet.

    Stevioside when pure — like the best tasting one I have found called JAJA Stevioside at is completely safe. Stevioside when pure (no additives) has no calories, no carbs, no fat.

    When companies pack pure stevioside into the sugar packets, they blend it with carbs. And worst of all, if you buy packets that are a 1:1 with sugar (1 packet of sugar to 1 packet of stevioside blend) you are getting 99% filler.

    If it’s a 2:1 you get 98% filler only 2% stevioside. Talk about a waste of money!

    ALso regarding the reputation some stevioside has for being grassy, licorice, and/or bitter tasting… that only occurs when the extractor uses the entire plant. Leaf, stem, roots, etc. If it is only leaf canvas like JAJA Stevioside claims to be, there is no bitter, licorice, or grassy taste. I use JAJA Stevioside myself and find it tastes just like sugar, except it is not as “rich” as sugar is. It’s a thin very sweet taste. Hard to describe really unless you have tried it.

    Hope this helps.