Sweeteners

Changed on: 04.05.2017

Sweeteners

Sweeteners are used to make food taste sweet. Sweeteners are substances regulated by the EU and are subject to safety assessments before they can be approved. Sweeteners used in a food product must be shown on the list of ingredients on the packaging.

Sweeteners are used to make food taste sweet. Sweeteners are substances regulated by the EU and are subject to safety assessments before they can be approved. Sweeteners used in a food product must be shown on the list of ingredients on the packaging.

Stevia

Steviol glycosides – sweeteners obtained from the leaves of the Stevia plant – have been permitted for use as food additives in the European Union since 2nd December, 2011. The Stevia plant, its dried leaves and raw extracts are classified as novel food in the EU. These have not been approved given the insufficient data at present and must not be used in foods as a result.

Steviol glycosides – sweeteners obtained from the leaves of the Stevia plant – have been permitted for use as food additives in the European Union since 2nd December, 2011. The Stevia plant, its dried leaves and raw extracts are classified as novel food in the EU. These have not been approved given the insufficient data at present and must not be used in foods as a result.

Stevia Q&A

Is the Stevia plant permitted as a sweetener?

Is the Stevia plant permitted as a sweetener?

No. The current approval granted by the EU Commission refers solely to so-called steviol glycosides: these are highly pure sweeteners obtained from the subtropical plant Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni.

The Stevia plant, its dried leaves and raw extracts are classified as novel food in the EU. This means that these substances were not provided or eaten in “noteworthy amounts” in the EU region before the relevant regulation came into effect on 15th May, 1997. Thus, these food products must be subject to a complex authorisation process before they can be placed on the market. To date, Stevia rebaudiana has not been approved as a food or food ingredient (also as food supplement) given the insufficient data available.

What are Steviol glycosides?

What are Steviol glycosides?

Steviol glycosides are plant-based substances obtained via extraction and purification from the leaves of the subtropical plant Stevia rebaudiana. Its sweetening effect is about 40 to 300 times stronger than that of sugar. Steviol glycosides create a long-lasting, sweet taste that is accompanied by bitter and liquorice-like flavours. A decrease of the sweetening effect through the separation of the sweeteners mentioned could be observed during cooking and baking.

What does authorisation of Steviol glycosides as sweeteners mean?

What does authorisation of Steviol glycosides as sweeteners mean?

The authorisation for the use of these highly pure sweeteners has come into effect on 2nd December, 2011 in accordance with Regulation (EU) No. 1131/2011 on the amendment of Annex II of the EC Regulation on food additives with regard to steviol glycosides (PDF). This means that steviol glycosides that meet the purity requirements of Regulation (EU) No. 231/2012 of the Commission from 9th March, 2012 (PDF) (see pages 272-273), are authorised as food additive E 960 for specific foods (including flavoured beverages, sweets, desserts, salty snacks, table-top sweeteners, food supplements) with appropriate maximum amounts as sweeteners. It is pointed out that the conditions for using food additives in accordance with Regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008 on food additives must be observed.

Why are only steviol glycosides authorised as sweeteners?

Why are only steviol glycosides authorised as sweeteners?

Recent toxicological examinations and scientific evaluations by the European Food Safety Authority have provided satisfactory answers to open questions on health safety questions related to steviol glycosides. In the face of the possibly considerable contribution of soft drinks to the ingestion of steviol glycosides by children and adults, a lower usage level than that previously reviewed and approved by the authority was defined for this group of goods for the purpose of precautionary consumer protection.

Questions on the health safety of the stevia plant, its dried leaves and raw extracts have not been answered satisfactorily to date. More than 100 plant-based active substances have been identified in the leaves of Stevia rebaundiana. The compounds responsible for the sweetness are part of the group of so-called glycosides. The content of stevioside in the fresh plant is between 3.7 and 4.8 %.

Are there already foods sweetened with steviol glycosides?

Are there already foods sweetened with steviol glycosides?

In Austria, there are steviol glycoside sweetened flavoured beverages, flavoured fermented dairy products and condiments (e.g. ketchup) that are calorie-reduced or manufactured without additional sugar on the market. Steviol glycosides can also be purchased in local supermarkets, drugstores and pharmacies in the form of table-top sweeteners for foods and drinks as sugar replacements. It seems that replacing sugar with steviol glycocides in terms of flavour and texture can be a major challenge in the product development of some foods. As a result, the range of products sweetened with steviol glycosides is still limited at present.

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