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Friday, November 8, 2013



STEVIA -- Natural Contender for Title of World's Best No-cal Sweetener

Mary Nash Stoddard [freelance journalist]
[ published in January, 2006 issue of Atkins Monthly magazine ]

Who will win the sweetener wars? At stake are billions of dollars shelled out by weight conscious and health conscious consumers world wide.

Key players in this bitter battle for mega profits are: stevia [natural, sweet tasting herb] and the chemical sweeteners, aspartame [aka NutraSweet and Equal] and neotame.

Is stevia really the forbidden natural alternative to aspartame?

Stevia [Stevia rebaudiana Bertoli] has been used for centuries in the rest of the world as a low-calorie, no-adverse-reactions-reported, sweet herb.

It can be purchased as crushed leaves, a dark liquid, a clear liquid or a fluffy white powder.

Anyone can grow it.

It's the sweetener that can't be called a sweetener in the U.S.!

Shoved illogically into the "Dietary Supplement" category by the FDA in 1994 when DSHEA [Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act] went into effect, stevia remains in limbo, in a sort of "halfway house," while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration [FDA] struggles to keep it off the market as a legally approved sweetener.

Unlike aspartame and neotame [NutraSweet Company's potent, new sweetener], stevia is unquestionably safe to cook with. But, without guidance on ratios and conversions, the average consumer is at a loss to know how to use it.

Stevia is much less expensive to use than its synthetic counterparts.

By the way, aspartame, by law, has to appear on a product's ingredient label.

NutraSweet Company's Neotame, on the other hand, may hide in a product, without its name appearing on the ingredient label. Some FDA watchers are baffled by this action.

More and more consumers are rejecting the pharmaceutical versions of sugar such as: saccharin, acesulfame K, sucralose, aspartame and neotame, and are searching for the ideal "healthy" sweetener. This makes stevia, the natural choice [no pun intended], a very real threat to aspartame, neotame and the others.

In July 2005, a study was published, showing aspartame created at least two forms of cancers [leukemia and lymphoma] in lab animals fed aspartame. The study was conducted by researchers from the European Ramazzini Foundation, an independent group located in Bologna, Italy.

FDA points to only two questionable studies as their absolute proof that stevia is not safe.

The first, ineptly done, by a graduate student in South America, says it may have [are you ready for this?] a mild contraceptive property.

The other, published in 1988 in a Brazilian pharmacological journal, was extremely sloppy science and no one but the FDA gives it any credence whatsoever.

On the off chance the public does not share FDA's concern about stevia's possible contraceptive qualities, they have come up with some strictly hearsay evidence, which they've never seen, through the South American "grapevine" that stevia might be unsafe for having a hypothetical hypoglycemic effect on some individuals. These are extremely flimsy straws the FDA is grasping at to support their ban on stevia as a sweetener.

FDA claims no petitions have been filed by product manufacturers seeking to use stevia as a Generally Recognized as Safe [or GRAS] ingredient in their product.

What they really mean is the FDA has never accepted a petition filed by a food or beverage manufacturer seeking to use stevia as a sweetener in their product.

Several, including Lipton have filed petitions only to be denied acceptance for some FDA-invented technical error.

FDA ignores the overwhelming evidence of stevia's benign and beneficial character.

Usage in the rest of the world for centuries with no reported ill affects, counts for nothing in the closed regulatory mind.

FDA even went so far as to attack one importer and distributor of stevia for perceived "violations" of the rules and regulations governing dietary supplements. The crime? Three books were being distributed by Stevita Co. of Arlington, Texas [owners of the Brazilian patent on stevia manufacturing] which described the history and usage of the sweet herb, stevia.

Not only was the business-owner ordered to destroy his inventory of books -- he was also forced to remove all links to other sites on his internet web site. A clear violation of First Amendment rights by the FDA? Could this controversy over stevia be related to FDA's defensive attitude over aspartame? [aka NutraSweet/Equal/Natrataste/Canderel, etc.]

FDA continues to fiercely support the artificial sweetener aspartame [aka NutraSweet/Equal] based solely on industry-sponsored tests showing safety.

[Monsanto, a former patent-holder on aspartame, has bought up and put on hold the U.S. patent on stevia manufacturing].

FDA's official position? Absolutely nothing is wrong or harmful about aspartame, despite the undisputed fact that approximately 80% of all adverse reaction complaints to FDA are aspartame related.

Unlike pharmaceuticals -- serious adverse reactions to a food additive are not required by law to be reported by physicians.

FDA lists over 92 symptoms consumers have tied to aspartame consumption -- including deaths.

Reports show that when individuals cease ingesting aspartame, their symptoms usually go away.

"Junk Science" or worse was used by G.D. Searle to gain approval for aspartame in the first place as a tabletop sweetener in 1981 and in 1983 for aqueous solution [soft drinks].

Some concerned FDA toxicologists even went as far as to show the tests were "falsified" to get aspartame approved in the first place.

Aspartame was first FDA-approved in 1974, but that approval was rescinded before it could get to market because of serious questions about one of the breakdown products, DKP , which caused brain tumors in the laboratory animals.

At a Washington D.C. News Conference, November 1997, John Olney, M.D., noted brain researcher, presented his compelling findings of a 10% increase in brain tumors since the advent of aspartame on the market.

Further troubling to many independent scientists is the fact that virtually all the studies showing harm are "corporate neutral" as one aspartame researcher put it.

Many studies are available to show harm caused by aspartame's phenylalanine, aspartic acid and toxic breakdown products: methanol - formaldehyde - formic acid and diketopiperazine.

Tens of thousands of consumers and others have reported serious adverse reactions to the FDA and consumer advocacy organizations collecting reports, such as the international Aspartame Consumer Safety Network and Pilot Hotline.

Woodrow Monte, R.D., Ph.D., a former director of the Arizona State University Food Sciences and Nutrition Laboratory, is uncomfortable with the methanol content of aspartame.

In an 1986 interview, Monte called aspartame "a crime against humanity." "Humans are 10 times more sensitive to methanol than animals. When you ingest aspartame, it breaks down into methanol within one hour of ingestion. Methanol forms as soon as aspartame goes into solution and increases the longer it is in solution." according to Monte.

Because heat speeds the breakdown of aspartame into methanol, this raises serious concern about aspartame's 1993 approval for use in baked goods and other heated products, like hot cocoa and tea.

Although aspartame came about as the result of a search for a drug, and its compounds were the basis for a potential prescription medication, the petition for approval of NutraSweet was based on the premise that it was a food additive. The FDA followed its precedent of permitting manufacturers to conduct their own product safety research.

Monte feels that aspartame was mislabeled from the beginning. "Aspartame is a drug, not a food additive," he said. "One hundred million people, from little babies to the elderly, are consuming this stuff in megadoses, more than they ever would if it were labeled a drug." [Informed Consent May/June '94]

Outspoken critics are suggesting -- not that we rid ourselves of a Food and Drug Administration -- only that we rid ourselves of the present "corrupted" Food and Drug Administration, thus changing the current FDA focus of protecting the profits of the giants of industry to one of protecting the American public, which it is charged to serve.

The FDA seems to have everything "backwards" in its regulatory thinking -- against the herbal sweetener with centuries of no adverse reactions to its credit, versus the artificial sweetener which has been surrounded by a storm of controversy since its flawed approval twenty four years ago.

Follow the "Money and Political Trail".

Conclusion: FDA's ability to evaluate any substance objectively has been called into question by consumers and independent researchers alike. Senator Metzenbaum called FDA officials mere "Handmaidens to Industry" in the 1987 Senate Hearings on the Safety of aspartame. Corporate megabucks influence and determine the actions of that government agency, created to protect the consumer from harm.

In an unfortunate ripple effect, FDA's seal of approval is the standard used by agencies around the world to allow food additives into their countries, without doing their own investigations.

Corporations routinely cover themselves by donating millions to organizations such as: American Dietetic Association, American Diabetic Foundation and others.

FDA officials routinely hop with jumping-bean-like ease from government to private industry and back.

Who will win the Sweetener Wars? Greed versus health, which will win? It's up to us, the consuming public. One person can and must work to make a difference in the way the world looks at sweeteners.


Tell everyone you know about this issue.

Work with those organizations lobbying to get stevia legally approved as a safe and natural sweetener.

Let your grocer know you want a naturally healthy choice when it comes to sweeteners.

Take aspartame-sweetened items back to the store to exchange for something healthy.

Try the sweet taste of stevia -- many say it's the beneficial, safe alternative to all of the unhealthy, chemical sweeteners.

Books available on Stevia:

The Stevia Story - A tale of incredible sweetness & intrigue - Linda and Bill Bonvie and Donna Gates

Sugar-Free Cooking With Stevia - James and Tanya Kirkland

Books on Aspartame:

Deadly Deception - Story of Aspartame - Mary Nash Stoddard

Deadly Deception - Story of Aspartame [One Hour Video Lecture at Science Symposium]

Excitotoxins - The Taste That Kills - Russell Blaylock, M.D.

Available from ACSN

Incredible Case History of One Courageous Stevia Distributor
Stevita Co. - Arlington Texas

"Freedom of the Press embraces the circulation of books as well as their publication."
-- from Judge's ruling in Bantam Books v Sullivan [1963]

Chronology of Events

Summer 1996
Stevita Company imported the first shipment of Stevia spoonful (blend of stevioside and maltodextrin) with registered trade name of STEVIASWEET. FDA office in Dallas detained the shipment of approximately 3,000 jars, saying Stevita Co. could not use the trade name STEVIASWEET because the word 'Sweet' on the name implied that stevia could be used as a sugar substitute. So, Mr. Rodes changed the labels (at American Airlines warehouse) to STEVITA brand. Products with new labels were then released.

Early 1997
Stevita Co. started importing Stevita chocolate flavored and Stevita cappuccino flavored products. First shipments passed through customs with no problems.

October, 1997

A shipment of Stevita cappuccino flavored product was detained by FDA. They claimed Stevita Co. was selling coffee instead of Stevia. Mr. Rodes then submitted a new label (MAGIC) that removed the word coffee. After changing all the labels (about 5,000) the shipment was released.

November 12, 1997
FDA inspectors, Martha Baldwin and Pauline Logan inspected Stevita facilities and took samples of the books and some scientific literature.

March 6, 1998
Stevita Co. received a warning letter from FDA saying the presence of literature, including the information on Stevita's web site, was rendering the stevia products "adulterated." Stevita Co. was given 5 days to reply. James Turner's office (Swanken & Turner Washington D.C. law firm) then requested a 15 day extension.

March 26, 1998
James Turner's office submitted an answer to the Warning Letter from FDA, agreeing with all the requests, with the exception of the destruction of the books and cessation of Stevita product sales.

April 1, 1998
Two shipments that had been detained by FDA had labels approved by FDA in Washington D.C.. However, Mr. James R. LaHar of the Dallas District office orders the shipments to continue being put on hold, because in his opinion, Mr. Oscar Rodes' Stevita Company's product is now contaminated by current literature -- already in circulation.

April 27, 1998
FDA Inspector, Martha Baldwin inspected Stevita Company's facilities and collected labels and documents. She also took an inventory of Stevita Company's products. In desperation to get the shipments released by FDA, Oscar Rodes told Stevita Co. attorney, James Turner to inform FDA that as of May 13, Stevita Company is ceasing distribution of all the books.

May 19, 1998 (9:00 AM)
A fax was received from James R. LaHar, Compliance Officer in the Dallas District Office of FDA, stating that investigators from his office were coming to Stevita's facilities to witness destruction of the literature and books.

May 19, 1998 (11:30 AM)
FDA inspectors, Pauline Logan and Margarito Uribe walked into the office. They proceeded to take inventory of all products and literature. Oscar Rodes believed they were sent by Mr. LaHar to witness destruction of all the books. Stevita Co. employees videotaped most of the so-called inspection -- including the part when one of the inspectors is marking the cookbooks (Cooking With Stevia by James Kirkland) for destruction. FDA Compliance Officer, James R. Lahar faxed a letter to Stevita Co. addressing the destruction of 2,500 books he deemed "offending," at a cost to the company well in excess of $10,000. The letter threatens that investigators will conduct a current inventory and "witness the destruction of the cookbooks, literature, and other publications for the purpose of verifying compliance" upon visiting Stevita Co. for a fourth time in one year.

May 20, 1998
Both inspectors return to Stevita's facilities for more inspection and counting of inventory.

May 22, 1998
The same two inspectors arrive again at Stevita Co. at 3:30 PM -- asking company owner, Oscar Rodes to sign some typewritten affidavits. Rodes said, "They also told me they wanted to look around."

June 6, 1998
Banned cookbook author, James Kirkland made a shocking presentation at a Town Hall meeting, convened by Congressman Joe Barton, by holding up The Anarchist's Cookbook, a book that talks about how to construct killer "homemade bombs," a popular hard-core porn magazine and a copy of his book -- telling how to cook with an herb. "Which of these publications is illegal?" he asked. Congressman Barton shrugged. The author then pointed to his cookbook on how to cook with stevia. "This isn't right." Kirkland added to thunderous audience applause. He then went on to elaborate. Kirkland's book, Cooking With Stevia, published by Morris Press of Kearney Nebraska has been "marked" by FDA for immediate destruction and recall. FDA is also attempting to "regulate" web sites on the Internet by telling Stevita Co. to delete their web site links to other pages. Congressman Barton is Chairman of the Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee in Washington, which oversees the Food and Drug Administration.

Media covered the Town Hall event and that evening, the CBS TV News affiliate in Dallas aired a story showing the "banned books" and telling the Stevita Co. story of harassment by FDA. This news segment was picked up by other CBS affiliates and aired around the U.S.

The Aftermath:

In a blatant move to intimidate valued customers of Texas-based Stevita
Co., importers of the sweet-tasting herbal dietary supplement stevia and
distributors of three "banned" books about the herb, FDA raiders began
relentlessly searching for their version of "the offensive literature" --
according to a horrified eyewitness shopper at an Arlington, Texas Health Food Store.

When called by a national cable television network news reporter, a
Dallas District FDA spokesperson said they would neither confirm nor deny
the allegation of literature search or seizure at health food stores,
because it was part of an "ongoing investigation." FDA Spokesperson in
Washington D.C., Monica Ravel in her misleading statement late Wednesday,
told another local network news reporter on tape, "We have not banned any
books." Stevita Co. has an FDA letter dated May 19,1998 signed by FDA's
James R. LaHar clearly stating they have.

These published books and literature offer the consumer information
on the history, usage and scientific studies showing the safety of the
legal herb stevia [aka stevia rebaudiana or stevioside]. One of three books
in question is The Stevia Story - A tale of incredible sweetness &
intrigue, by Linda Bonvie, Bill Bonvie and Donna Gates with Foreword by
James S. Turner, author of The Chemical Feast.

Ironically, Chapter Four of the book the FDA wants to destroy is titled:
"What's wrong with the FDA?"

The other books are: Nature's Sweet Secret - Stevia by David Richards and
Cooking with Stevia by James Kirkland.

In the course of the following months, the FDA seized all of Stevita's inventory, in an effort to force the company to comply with the recall and destruction order. This action, according to author, James Kirkland, "nearly put Stevita Company out of business." Only after lengthy, costly litigation was the company allowed to resume distribution of some publications, but not Cooking With Stevia.

The following was taken from the Internet website of Linda and Bill Bonvie, authors of The Stevia Story, A Tale of Incredible Sweetness And Intrigue:

"Given stevia's record as a completely safe and beneficial herbal product, and given that it now may be purchased legally in the U.S., just what is the FDA afraid of? That Americans will learn about stevia -- that it is actually both sweet and non-caloric? Try it? Want to use it? The FDA's prior attempts to control stevia as if it were a dangerous drug had the appearance to many of being a restraint of trade; now that it can be legally sold and used, the agency has gone further and is apparently trying to restrain ideas, information and criticism of its own behavior -- trying, in essence, to act as a sort of 'thought police.' This is a very important issue which should be carefully followed by everyone -- whether you like stevia or not -- even if you've never tasted it."


Soffritti M., et al. Environ. Health Perspect, doi: 10.1289/eh.8711 (2005).

Sugar-Free Cooking Wtih Stevia The Naturally Sweet & Calorie-Free Herb, 1998; Crystal Health Publishing, Arlington, Texas

The Stevia Story - A Tale of Incredible Sweetness and Intrigue, Linda Bonvie, Bill Bonvie and Donna Gates, Atlanta: B.E.D. Publications, 1997.

Deadly Deception - Story of Aspartame - Mary Nash Stoddard, Odenwald Press 1998.

Nutrition and Healing, June 1998, Sweeteners Inspire Bitter Political Battle Between Feds and Consumers, Mary Nash Stoddard.

The Mary Stoddard Show, Interview with authors, Tanya and James Kirkland on Real Talk Network, 2001.

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