The stevia regulation will enter into force on 2 December

The stevia regulation will enter into force on 2 December

The soft drinks industry has welcomed the European Commission's formal approval of stevia sweeteners for use within the European Union for the first time.

After months of examining the safety of natural sweeteners derived from the stevia plant, approval was publicly announced by the Commission today (14 November). The product has now been cleared for use in the EU's 27 member states.

Coca-Cola Europe said today that the decision "paves the way for the company to deliver more beverages with fewer calories".

"The addition of stevia to the range of sweeteners we already use in our drinks gives us even more options to innovate and develop drinks for our consumers," said Coca-Cola Europe's president, Dominique Reiniche. "This is another important milestone as we grow our portfolio."

The Coca-Cola Co was one of the first soft drinks firm's to launch a beverage sweetened with stevia, with the roll out of Sprite Green in the US in December 2008. The firm also launched stevia-sweetened Fanta Still in France in March 2009.

Products containing stevia have been on sale in France for two years, but suppliers had been waiting for the EU to approve the ingredient's use across the entire bloc.

US-based stevia producer PureCircle, which has established a UK business division in anticipation of regulatory clearance, also welcomed today's final approval.

"PureCircle and our customers have been preparing for some time in anticipation of European approval," said PureCircle's VP of global marketing, Jason Hecker. "Our entire line of stevia ingredients, including our recent launch of sweetener PureCircle Alpha, fully meets EU specifications. We are fully prepared for a new stage of stevia development in Europe."

The International Stevia Council's president, Carl Horn, said the approval is "a major step forward for consumer choice in Europe".

The regulation is now present in the Official Journal of the EU and will enter into force on 2 December.