The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has received three petitions for stevia sweeteners, from EUSTAS (the European Stevia Association), Cargill and Morita. Industry is hoping that, pending a positive opinion, extracts with 95 per cent steviol glycosides could be approved in Europe under the new sweeteners directive by autumn 2010 or spring 2011.
But in the meantime, member states can authorise a new sweetener under transition arrangements. Lasting two years, this route, which France is taking, will speed to sweetener’s advent to the European market – and by the time the 2 years is up it is expected that the EU will have given its seal of approval.
France’s food safety agency, AFFSA, cleared use of 97 per cent purity Reb A earlier this year and ministerial authorisation is anticipated this summer.
Angus Flood, head of international marketing at PureCircle, told FoodNavigator.com: “The indications from the food and beverage industry in France are that they are more advanced in product development terms than Australia was in advance of regulatory approval.
“We are expecting significant launches across several food applications, as soon as Reb A is approved in France.”
Activity is expected to include both new launches using stevia sweeteners and their use to reduce sugar in existing brands, as food and beverage firms in Europe and the rest of the world seek to make their products healthier.
Flood added that Turkey has already approved stevia extract, “although we are clarifying the exact nature of the authorisation” – and it is possible that other major countries in Europe will follow France.
Florence Berglund, chief marketing office of Granular, said that the early approval in France is mostly a good thing, as “major food and beverage makers are ready.”
But she stressed that AFFSA’s clearance is only for Reb A, not the whole family of steviol glycosides. “JECFA allows for a wider range of tastes, not a specific concentration of Reb A in the steviol glycoside mix,” she said.
“EUSTAS is disappointed that France has not been able to approve the whole form.” However the association has initiated the process for broader approval, French health ministry has already asked AFFSA for the relevant documents, according to Berglund.
Companies planning to be present in the European stevia market will be convening in Leuven, Belgium, on Wednesday 1st and Thursday 2nd of July for the Stevia in Europe conference organised by EUSTAS.
Programme sessions include production of stevia and steviol glycosides, quality of taste, validation of analytical methods, new active compounds, derivatives, and the regulatory scene in Europe.
The conference will be followed by a further day of meetings for EUSTAS members only.
More information is available from www.eustas.org.