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Stevia myth: products not left natural

Stevia myth: products not left natural

Consumer advocates found preservatives and other sweeteners in stevia products

The Austrian Association for Consumer Information (VKI) found out in the course of a study that the stevia products offered are not nearly as natural as they are always advertised. Because the sweetener of the plant is mainly obtained through industrial processes, according to consumer protection, it is “no longer a natural product”.

Stevia no longer has anything to do with naturalness
For centuries, the native people of South America have known the stevia plant as a tasty, sweet plant. In December 2011, the EU Commission gave the green light for processing the subtropical plant across Europe. Since then, the actually natural sweetener with the split-off substance steviol glycoside has been allowed in food. However, the food industry seems to destroy any hope of a healthy alternative to conventional industrial sugar. A study by the Association for Consumer Information (VKI) sums up that the sweetener stevia no longer has anything to do with naturalness in products sold in this country.

The consumer advocates tested a total of 36 different stevia products in order to determine whether they are actually “natural” and “low in calories”, as is usually advertised by the manufacturers. At first glance, Stevia fulfills both properties, but a closer analysis shows that Stevia products are far from being as natural as advertising wants to make consumers know.

The sweetness comes from other fabrics
"Because only the steviol glycosides have been approved by the European Union and these are extracted from the natural plant using a complex industrial process," reports the consumer initiative. This process is largely implemented in China. During the industrial process, the dried leaves of the stevia plant are mixed with water or alcohol. The failures are then treated with salts, decolorizers and resins. This is followed by desalination and crystallization from alcoholic solutions until the sweetener (steviol glycoside) is at least 95 percent pure. In addition, preservatives, stabilizers or release agents are often added to the stevia varieties if they are offered in tablets or powder form.

"The sweetness often comes from other fabrics," it continues. Because in every third product, the experts found additional sweeteners in the laboratory. Conventional sugar was even contained in ten of the 36 varieties. "Stevia is not that natural, but steviol glycosides are no better or worse than other sweeteners," is the final conclusion of the VKI.

In Austria, the Ministry of Health saw itself forced to ban advertising slogans from food manufacturers such as "sweetened with stevia" or "naturally sweetened" so that consumers are no longer obviously deceived. (sb)

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Image: Sigrid Rossmann / pixelio.de

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