The International Stevia Council, the authoritative voice for the stevia industry, applauded the final approval. Maria Teresa Scardigli, the council's executive director, said, "The final hurdle in the regulatory process for steviol glycosides—the scrutiny of the regulation by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers—has been cleared." The regulation was formally adopted on November 11 and will enter into force 20 days after publication in the EU Official Journal, which occurred on November 12.
As a result, consumers across Europe will be able to enjoy products sweetened by steviol glycosides as early as December 2, 2011.
Steviol glycosides or purified stevia extracts are derived from the stevia plant—a small shrub native to South America. As a member of the largest family of plants, Asteraceae or the "sunflower family", stevia is related to herbs and vegetables such as chamomile, tarragon, endive and lettuce.
Leading global food safety experts, including the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), have established that steviol glycosides are safe for all populations to consume and steviol glycosides are suitable sweetening options for people with diabetes.
Carl Horn, president of the International Stevia Council, said, "This is a major step forward for consumer choice in Europe. Steviol glycosides are derived from a natural source, the stevia plant, and are zero-calorie. These two characteristics are key attributes for consumers searching for ‘better for me’ products in their efforts to lead healthier lifestyles and manage weight. In the coming weeks and months, consumers will begin to see new products sweetened with stevia appearing on the shelves in European supermarkets. This will include a wide range of goods, including yogurts, cereals, beverages, soft drinks, confectionery, chocolate and table top sweeteners.”
Hundreds of new products are being launched each year made with stevia extracts across a wide range of countries and products from tabletop sweeteners to beverages.
Stevia extracts have become particularly common in Asia, South America and the U.S.