Brussels, Belgium, 27 January 2011
On 14 April 2010, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published a positive scientific opinion (1) concluding that steviol glycosides, sweeteners extracted from the stevia plant, are safe for use in food and beverages. EFSA also established an Acceptable Daily intake (ADI) (2) for their safe consumption, expressed as steviol equivalents, of 4 mg/kg bw/day, the same ADI established by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee of Food Additives (JECFA) in July 2008. EFSA further expressed a concern that, at the maximum use levels proposed by the applicants (European Stevia Association, Morita, and Cargill), (3) ADI could potentially be exceeded.
In response to this opinion, the applicants submitted a revised use level proposal in September 2010, which was referred to EFSA by the European Commission for an exposure assessment. (4)
On 26 January 2011, EFSA released the statement “Revised exposure assessment for steviol glycosides for the proposed uses as a food additive”. (5) In their statement, EFSA concluded that the range of possible estimated intakes may exceed the ADI in some cases. It is important to understand, however, that EFSA’s intake assessment approach is extremely conservative and included uses not even proposed by the applicants. On its conservative approach, EFSA noted:
“When considering the results, it is important to note that these revised exposure estimates, like the ones calculated in the opinion of the ANS Panel, should be considered as conservative. Indeed an assumption made was that all processed foods and beverages contain the sweetener steviol glycosides added at the maximum proposed use levels (i.e. all beverages and not only energy-reduced beverages were considered; the latter was proposed by the applicants.)” (6)
The International Stevia Council and its members, of which two are applicants of record, will continue to work to resolve all questions during the regulatory process for the authorization of steviol glycosides in the European Union. The International Stevia Council, as the voice of the stevia industry, will be providing strong support to the regulatory process and keeping key stakeholders informed on the progress of this approval in the European Union.