Allergic Reactions to Stevia
In 2010, the European Food Safety Administration (EFSA) reviewed the literature to determine if there was any cause for concern regarding the potential for allergenicity of the stevia plant.1 At that time, the reviewers concluded “steviol glycosides are not reactive and are not metabolized to reactive compounds, therefore, it is unlikely that the steviol glycosides under evaluation should cause by themselves allergic reactions when consumed in foods. In addition, stevia leaves have a long history of use as a food ingredient in a number of countries with no other published reports of allergic reactions in either healthy or allergic population.”1 A group of experts recently conducted a comprehensive search of the scientific literature to identify all available data related to allergic responses following the consumption of stevia extracts or highly purified steviol glycosides.2 These researchers found that hypersensitivity reactions to stevia in any form are rare, and the few cases documented were reported prior to the introduction of high-purity products to the market in 2008. There have been no reports of stevia-related allergy in the literature since 2008, leading the researchers to conclude that there is no substantiated scientific evidence to support claims that steviol glycosides are allergenic, neither is there any evidence to support warning statements to consumers about allergy to highly purified stevia extracts.
Some may have a concern that genetically modified crops or “GMOs” cause allergies. There is no conclusive scientific evidence that new or novel allergens are present in genetically engineered crops versus their non-GMO counterparts. Nevertheless, it is worth pointing out that stevia plants are not genetically modified, and the high-purity stevia leaf extracts approved for use in foods and beverages around the world are non-GMO sweetener ingredients.
Overall, the data shows that there should be no concerns regarding the potential for allergenicity following stevia consumption. For more on how stevia is grown, see the stevia farming section.
- EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources (ANS); Scientific Opinion on safety of steviol glycosides for the proposed uses as a food additive. EFSA Journal 2010;8(4):1537. [85 pp.]. Available at: https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/1537.
- Urban, Jonathan D., Michael C. Carakostas, and Steve L. Taylor. “Steviol glycoside safety: Are highly purified steviol glycoside sweeteners food allergens?.” Food and Chemical Toxicology 75 (2015): 71-78. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278691514004785.