Stevia’s story is one of sweetness and intrigue--a little plant with all the qualifications of a protagonist in a good mystery novel. A native of Paraguay, it was used for centuries for its sweetness, later to become the “subject of searches and seizures, trade complaints and embargoes on importation...handled at times by the FDA as if it were an illegal drug,” according to the website www.stevia.net.

However, its troubled past has turned to glory, as the FDA has now granted two companies interested in its use in foods and beverages a “no questions” status through GRAS notification. This has opened the door for food and beverage companies to start, or continue, their R&D work with rebaudioside A (Reb-A) as a natural sweetener, one that offers great taste, no calories and no guilt!

Blue California’s GRAS dossier is one of the most recent notifications to the FDA. Typically, the agency issues comments within 180 days, so a “no objection” letter is expected by July 2009. Blue California is a manufacturer of nutritional ingredients in Southern California, and it seems to be ahead of a handful of players in the global stevia market for food and beverage applications. Their trademarked Good&Sweet Reb-A 99%, a proprietary Reb-A ingredient, is claimed to be the highest purity rebaudioside A produced in the world.

According to Blue California, purity is a very important safety issue, when it comes to stevia and Reb-A. The Joint Expert Committee of Food Additives issued the much-awaited recommendation on stevia in June 2008. The committee’s recommendation, after 10 years of review and consideration, was not just for any stevia extract, but for a product that would contain no less than 95% steviol glycosides, as minimum purity, to ensure safety for use in food products. Three months after the committee’s recommendation, several countries moved to approve stevia as a food ingredient (Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland and others) and joined several other countries where stevia has already been used as a natural sweetener in foods and beverages.

Reb-A is one of the most important steviol glycosides responsible for stevia’s sweetness. Besides sweetness, Reb-A offers the best taste of the stevia compounds. Blue California promotes its proprietary Reb-A ingredient as being 400 times sweeter than sugar, with a better-than-most taste profile, due to its high-purity, pesticide-free and kosher-certified properties, as well as the fact that it is produced using NSF Strict GMP Quality Standards. Good&Sweet is heat-stable and can be used in a variety of food and beverage applications.

“Blue California has a well-established GMP manufacturing facility, with large production capacity to meet the growing demand for this ingredient. The future for this natural, non-caloric sweetener is bright,” said Cecilia McCollum, executive vice president of Blue California. pf 

--Kerry Hughes, Technical Field Editor

For more information:
Blue California * Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.
Cecilia McCollum * 949-635-1990
cecilia@bluecal-ingredients.com * www.bluecal-ingredients.com