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French to receive extension for stevia use ahead of EU approval

By Guy Montague-Jones , 28-Jun-2011

The Commission has agreed to allow the continued use of stevia in France until the EU approves the sweetener, providing relief to companies worried that the extension would end before EU-wide authorisation is granted.

In France, stevia sweeteners with a high purity of the steviol glycoside Reb A were granted a two-year approval window in September 2009 in advance of full EU approval.

But with that window fast running out there had been questions asked about what would happen if the EU authorisation was not granted before then.

No more deadline

This publication has now learned that the Commission has allowed the French to continue using stevia.

Hervé Ory-Lavollée, chairman of ingredients supplier Lavollée, said a draft is being prepared from the French authorities explaining that approval is extended until the EU authorizes stevia.

“The signature is expected in the coming days or weeks. This means that French will not have anymore a deadline!” said Ory-Lavollée.

EU approval of stevia, which will extend to steviol glycosides rather than just Reb A as in France, is now expected at the end of the year. EU commissioner Wim Debeuckelaere revealed at the Stevia 2011 conference in London last week that the sweetener is on schedule for approval in “November or December at the latest.”

French develop taste for stevia

Stevia has already established itself as a significant sweetener in the French market, accounting for 4.5 per cent of new products globally using the sweetener, according to Mintel.

Attracted by its natural, low calorie profile, food manufacturers across the industry are turning to stevia but it is the market for snacks and non-alcoholic drinks that is leading the way. Mintel data shows that snacks were the leading category 2005-2009 making up 38.5 per cent of new stevia-sweetened products, with soft drinks in second place at 30.4 per cent.

But in France, the market researcher said the beverage industry is currently the biggest user.

Coca-Cola has used stevia in its Fanta Still product and leading juice maker Joker has added the sweetener to its Vital nectar. The dairy industry has also shown significant interest in stevia; Danone began using the ingredient in its Taillefine yoghurts in July last year, advertising the fact prominently on the pack.