Sweeteners from the stevia plant have caused much excitement in the food and drink sector

Sweeteners from the stevia plant have caused much excitement in the food and drink sector

Suppliers of stevia today (5 July) lined up to welcome a ruling within the EU that brings full regulatory backing for the intense sweetener a step nearer.

The EU's Standing Committee on Food Chain and Animal Health yesterday voted to recommend the use of stevia as an ingredient in food and beverages.

Natural sweeteners derived from stevia plants burst onto the scene in late 2008, when the US Food & Drug Administration cleared the use of several ranges. PepsiCo, The Coca-Cola Co and Dr Pepper Snapple Group are among those who have shown interest in stevia, although some have warned that the sweeteners are not a magic bullet.

Products containing stevia have been on sale in France for two years, but suppliers are waiting for the EU to say that the ingredient can be used across the entire bloc. The European Parliament is set to look at the standing committee's decision. A final ruling is expected later this year.

UK-listed PureCircle, which supplies stevia-based sweeteners and saw its shares climb on the news, said the committee's decision was "an important milestone" in the process.

CEO Magomet Malsagov said: "We know that there is strong consumer and food and beverage demand for stevia in Europe. We look forward to being allowed to supply that demand before the end of 2011."

For a fuller version of this story, go to just-drinks' sister site, just-food.