High purity stevia leaf extracts are used as plant-based, zero-calorie sweetening ingredients around the world. These extracts, chemically known as steviol glycosides, have been rigorously tested in over 200 peer-reviewed published research studies and deemed safe for human consumption
Regulatory agencies around the world have also concluded that high purity stevia leaf extract is safe for use as a sweetener for the general population. In 2008 and 2009 respectively, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization’s Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), a global panel of food ingredient safety experts, approved high purity steviol glycosides for human consumption as a non-medical ingredient, and developed an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI).
Acceptable Daily Intake
The Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) is the amount of a substance that people can consume in food or beverages on a daily basis over the course of their entire life without any appreciable risk to health. Leading authorities have reviewed more than 200 scientific studies that attest to stevia’s safety and, using the collective body of evidence, regulatory authorities have established an ADI which applies to all age groups. The ADI set for steviol glycosides is expressed as steviol equivalents of 4 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day. This equates to approximately 12 mg of high purity stevia extracts per kilogram of body weight per day. To put the ADI for high-purity stevia glycosides into perspective, a 150-pound (70 kg) person would need to consume approximately 40 packets of a tabletop stevia sweetener per day for the rest of their life to reach the ADI.
The ADI was established using a safety factor of 100, which includes a 10 times factor to account for potential differences between humans and animal species used in toxicological testing, and a 10 times factor to account for potential differences within the human population, such as between children and adults. Thus, any potential increased susceptibility of children compared to adults to steviol glycosides has been proactively addressed in the establishment of the ADI.
Also, it is important to note that some of the studies used to establish the ADI demonstrated that daily doses of steviol glycosides as high as 1,000 milligrams per person per day were well-tolerated by both healthy people with normal glucose metabolism and those with type-2 diabetes.
Whole stevia leaf and crude extract are not the same as high purity stevia leaf extract.
Traditionally, stevia leaves were dried and used to sweeten tea and medicines. Today, crude stevia extracts are still sold as dietary supplements in some countries; however, it is only the high purity stevia leaf extract form of stevia that has been evaluated and approved for use as an ingredient in food and beverages by the world’s leading regulatory agencies. For an in-depth review of stevia safety, see the European Foods Safety Authority Scientific Opinion on the safety of steviol glycosides for the proposed uses as a food additive (EFSA Journal 2010;8(4):1537.