Allergic Reactions to Stevia: No Scientific Substantiation

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. At that time, the reviewers concluded that “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

The Food and Chemical Toxicology journal 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 The researchers found that hypersensitivity reactions to stevia in any form is 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 there is little substantiated scientific evidence to support warning statements to consumers about allergy to highly purified stevia extracts.

Additionally, while there is no scientific reason to suggest genetically modified crops or “GMOs” cause allergies, it is worth pointing out that stevia plants are not genetically modified, and therefore there should be no concerns regarding potential for allergenicity. For more on how stevia is grown, see the stevia farming section.


REFERENCES

  1. 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.].
  2. 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.