How ‘Natural’ Is Stevia?
FoodNavigator-USA.com did a special edition “Where next for natural sweeteners?” Special editions are collections of previously published articles on topics of interest to this newsletter’s food industry readers.
Why do this? The holy grail of food technology is to find a no-calorie sweetener that tastes as good as sugar, has no bitter aftertaste, and can be marketed as “natural” because it’s extracted from plants. Examples: Stevia extracted from leaves, Monk fruit sweetener.
As with high fructose corn syrup, not everyone considers these sweeteners to be natural since they have to go through chemical processing steps.
Stevia is extracted from leaves with ethanol. Whether this process can be considered natural is currently under debate in Europe. Some European regulators prefer “extracted from a plant source.”