Stevia has GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) status in the US, and steviol glycosides were approved for EU-use in 31 food categories, including high-fiber breakfast cereals.
Despite a wealth of safety data in its favor, two recent publications (Brahmachari et al., 2011, Arch. Pharm.344, 5–19, Tandel, 2011, J. Pharmacol. Pharmacother. 2, 236–243) have raised questions about the safety of the ingredient.
The new paper, published in Food and Chemical Toxicology and funded by Cargill Inc. and The Coca-Cola Company, lays to rest any such concerns, and concludes that: “The recent suggestions that steviol glycosides present a mutagenic – and therefore carcinogenic – risk to consumers are not supported by actual test results.
“The database of genotoxicity studies for steviol glycosides and steviol as it currently stands, combined with a lack of evidence for neoplasm development in rat bioassays, is adequate to establish the safety of these food ingredients with respect to their genetic/carcinogenic potential.”
The new paper is authored by Dr. Jonathan Urban and Dr. Michael Carakostas from ToxStrategies, Inc., and David Brusick from the Brusick Consultancy.
Dr Urban and his co-authors analyzed the genotoxicity studies causing the concern, as well as the overall database of evidence including more recent genotoxicity data.
“The current database of in vitro and in vivo studies for steviol glycosides is robust and does not indicate that either stevioside or rebaudioside A are genotoxic,” they said.
“The fact that steviol and stevioside have already shown to be negative in both the [unscheduled DNA synthesis] and the more sensitive comet assay argues that further study of the genotoxicity potential of steviol glycosides using transgenic animals is unwarranted.”
Source: Food and Chemical Toxicology
Volume 51, January 2013, Pages 386-390
“Steviol glycoside safety: Is the genotoxicity database sufficient?”
Authors: J.D. Urban, M.C. Carakostas, D.J. Brusick