Pénélope Alexandre, regulatory and scientific affairs director at the association of the chocolate, biscuit and confectionery industries of Europe (Caobisco) said that the body is aiming to have approval in the long term for stevia usage in all product categories under its remit “since we are supporting innovation.”
However, she stressed the Caobisco respects the opinions and rigours of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) approvals process and added that in terms of stevia applications in different food categories, “it will be the Commission’s task to manage the risk, [concurrently] taking into account the technological needs for product innovation.”
European stevia is currently an industry-in-waiting, as the European Commission has yet to grant its approval of stevia sweeteners.
EFSA gave a positive safety opinion on steviol glycosides in April 2010, in line with the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), which approves the use of steviol glycosides at 95 per cent purity or above.
Meanwhile, last month, EFSA published revised exposure estimates for use of steviol glycosides as sweeteners in food and beverages, raising eyebrows in some quarters by revealing that industry players had withdrawn licensing applications for 15 food groups altogether, mainly in the ‘desserts and other products’ category.
Other lost categories included ‘fine bakery wares for nutritional purposes’ which are essentially specific types of biscuits for diabetics, and the snacks category including certain flavours of ready to eat, prepacked, dry, savoury starch products and coated nuts.
European Stevia Association (EUSTAS) president Professor Jan Guens told sister site FoodNavigator.com last month that it, together with the major players with food additive petitions for steviol glycosides - Cargill and Morita, signed a mutual confidentiality agreement in January 2009 to write a ‘roadmap’, allowing EFSA to combine data from several applications in reaching its positive opinion in April on steviol glycosides.
But Guens revealed that a schism arose between EUSTAS on one side, and the other two petitioners on the other, over necessary revisions to proposed usage levels; these addressed EFSA's April 2010 concerns over EDI (estimated daily intake) of steviol glycosides in soft drinks by children, given the authority’s ADI (acceptable daily intake) figure of 4mg/kg by weight per day.
The professor said both companies initially removed the 15 categories last July, but he convinced the firms to reinstate them thereafter; however, he then received a phone call the day before the three dossier petitioners sent suggestions for revised levels to EFSA, informing him that the categories were again being ditched.
Correction: This article was amended from the original published on 8 March to clarify that Caobisco has not yet made an application in regard to stevia's usage in 'fine bakery wares'.