November 14/Brussels/Press Release (Cargill) -- The International Stevia Council has applauded the final approval of the European Commission's Regulation to authorize the use of steviol glycosides as a non-caloric sweetener in the European market. 

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 has been formally adopted on 11 November and will enter into force 20 days after publication in the EU Official Journal, which occurred on 12 November.

As a result, consumers across Europe will be able to enjoy products sweetened by steviol glycosides as early as December 2, 2011. The ingredient has been given the E number E960.

Steviol glycosides or purified stevia extracts are derived from the Stevia plant. 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 life styles 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 yoghurts, cereals, beverages, soft drinks, confectionary, chocolate and table top sweeteners."

Cargill’s Truvia business has announced another important step in the Pan-European rollout of the leading stevia-based sweetener. The business has signed an exclusive distribution partnership in Spain with Azucarera, the leading sugar company in Iberia. This announcement follows exclusive distribution agreements made with the leading sugar brands in Europe -- CristalCo (Daddy) in France, Eridania in Italy and the Silver Spoon Company, part of Associated British Foods, in the U.K. and Ireland.

From the November 14, 2011, Prepared Foods' Daily News.