Is Truvia a Safe Alternative to Sugar?
A member of our online community emailed me today asking about Truvia. Truvia is a tale of the Stevia plant and big business. Contrary to what some of you may believe, I am not a conspiracy theorist but this story smacks of conspiracy. A conspiracy to keep an incredibly safe sweetener(especially for diabetics), with 0 calories that doesn't rot your teeth away from the US public until a big company like Cargill wanted to utilize it!
Truvia is based on the Stevia plant which has safely been used for hundreds of years by the Japanese and in large quantities for the last 30 years. Truvia is made by boiling down the Stevia plant and making Rebiana. There have been studies that say Stevia leads to infertility but I was unable to find anything solid either way.
You see, at the request of an anonymous complaint the FDA banned the use of Stevia in 1991 unless it was labeled as a supplement. The FDA labeled Stevia as an unsafe food additive and limited it's import. They based this ruling against their own guidelines that state that any natural substance used prior to 1958 with no reported adverse effects should be generally recognized as safe (GRAS). So the FDA left many people confused as to how Stevia could be unsafe as a sweetener, but safe as a supplement in 1994 when they approved it's use as such- a contradictory statement of safety based upon how it is sold. How could something be safe and unsafe at the same time?
Labeling it safe for use as a supplement meant it would be much harder to market. The big food manufacturers were happy with their Aspartame and the big profits at the time and had no interest in another sweetener. They knew there were questions about safety issues with current sweeteners but they regarded them as nothing more than annoyances as the FDA made it very clear that it would take the power to move a mountain to re-evaluate the safety of Aspartame.
Fast Forward to May 2007 when it is becoming accepted by many that aspartame is not the best alternative for our population at large. Cargill requests a patent on rebiana (or Rebaudioside A), a high-purity form of the best tasting part of the stevia leaf.
Fast forward to May 2008 when "results of a rigorous safety evaluation program that affirms earlier positive safety findings and addresses outstanding questions to definitively establish the safety of rebiana are e-published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal and Cargill and The Coca-Cola Company Company introduce Truvia™, the brand name for rebiana" from Cargill's website.
I thought Stevia couldn't be patented as it was a leaf but hey, what do I know. Basically, Cargill and Coca Cola now own the Stevia sweetener market in one very quiet, swell swoop. How did that happen? The FDA approved rebiana under GRAS (generally accepted as safe). But how does it go from being boiled to looking so pretty and white? I put a call into Ann Tucker with Cargill to find out but did not receive a response.
Okay so anyway, there is a little history of Stevia in the US. It is still banned (unless labeled as a supplement) but now Cargill and Coca Cola have the patent on rebiana. If we should believe Cargill's research, Rebiana is the first consistent, high-purity sweetener composed of rebaudioside A, which is safe.
So what to do? I truly think that everyone is different and Truvia will work for some and not for others. But is it safe? I don't know, is sugar safe? It looks like there are no reproductive issues with Truvia but some have had some gastrointestinal problems associated with Truvia's use.
I will be sticking with my small amounts of sugar, Stevia Plus and honey to make me sweet for now and continue to look into Truvia. The main problem I have is that I just do not trust the FDA. How can I trust an underfunded organization that tells me that stevia (or rebiana) is safe if we buy it from Cargill and Coca Cola, but not safe for purchase from other companies in foods and drinks unless labeled as a supplement?
Please help me out here...am I missing something?