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France ups Reb A limits for food

By Jess Halliday , 19-Jan-2010
Last updated the 19-Jan-2010 at 09:33 GMT

The French government has approved the use of stevia sweetener Reb A in table top sweeteners, and raised the levels at which it can be used in a range of no added sugar food and beverage products.

Last August France became the first country in the EU to approve the use of Reb A with purity of 97 per cent and above in food and beverage products, taking advantage of a 2-year window in advance of the anticipated approval for the whole EU by the European Commission.

The updated approval from the Ministere de l’Economie, de l’Industrie et de l’Emploi, published in France’s Official Journal last Friday, raises the amount that can be used reduced calorie or no added sugar non-alcoholic drinks, confectionery, desserts and other products by around 40 per cent from those originally approved - a change which will give industry considerably more flexibility.

The permission to use Reb A as a table top sweetener opens up another, high potential product area for industry. For this product category no upper limit has been set for dosage, but the government said it must be subject to good manufacturing processes.

Reb A can now be used in beverages at a level of up to 600mg/l, and in most desserts up to 1000mg/kg. In ice cream the limit is 800mg/kg.

In breath-freshening sweets the limit is 10,000mg/kg; in chewing gum 5,500mg/kg; in throat sweets, cocoa or dried fruit based and starch based sweets 2000mg/kg; in other confectionery with no added sugar the limit is 1000mg/kg.

Hervé Ory-Lavollée of Groupe Lavollee Chimie, a distributor that has secured supply from Stevia Internacional in Argentina, told FoodNavigator.com that the change has come about as the government accepted a request from industry for higher levels. He emphasised that ultimate acceptance will come from consumers, however.

The news was also welcomed by Peter Milsted, sales and marketing director at PureCircle, who told FoodNavigator that the company is “happy to see a further endorsement of Stevia in this way and are looking forward to seeing PureVia on the market in France in the near future given our ties with the brand”.

Coca Cola has already announced the introduction of Fanta Still with stevia in France, using Coca Cola and Cargill’s Truvia branded ingredient. It is said to have achieved a 30 per cent reduction in sugar.

The first table top sweetener launches are expected within days.

Novel foods pending

Two applications for stevia are currently awaiting novel foods opinions from the European Food Safety Authority: for stevia leaves and for steviol glycosides. Both applications were made by the European Stevia Association EUSTAS.

If EFSA’s opinions are positive, the matter will then pass to the European Commission to rule on novel foods approval, and for approval under the new sweeteners regulation.

Although the Commission is not bound to act in accordance with EFSA’s opinion, and indeed, EFSA’s opinion may not necessarily be positive, industry certainly believes the fledgling market will be allowed to take off.

The original application for approval in France, made by Greensweet, was for all steviol glycosides, not just Reb A.

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