The industry critisism comes after a German court delivered a temporary ruling that Gesund & Leben’s Stevia Fluid cannot be marketed in its original form. A German consumer group had initially taken the manufacturer to court - claiming that images of stevia leaves on the product packaging were 'misleading' to consumers.
The Consumer Association for the German region of Baden-Württemberg said that the sweetener product obtained at the end of processing had “nothing to do with a natural extract or even the stevia plant” - adding that “steviol glycosides do not occur naturally in foods”.
However, a joint statement The European Stevia Association (EUSTAS) and the International Stevia Council (ISC) has widely criticised the consumer group, arguing that it is their comments that are misleading:
"These statements are incorrect and therefore misleading consumers," said the joined statement."It is clear that consumers get the exact same sweet molecules, which are naturally present in the leaves of the plant and that are offered to them in the form of stevia extracts."
"Steviol glycosides are the sweet compounds that occur originally in the leaves of the stevia plant and that are extracted using conventional plant extraction techniques as described in the Regulation (EU) No 231/2012," the statement added.
Indeed, the EUSTAS and ISC said that any statement suggesting that steviol glycosides have 'nothing to do with the actual plant' misleads consumers to believe that that steviol glycosides are synthetic compounds.
"Steviol glycosides are clearly a part of the stevia plant," they said. "This means that, in accordance with the EU regulations ... there are no steviol glycosides without the green leaves of the stevia plant.