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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Greening - Will The Real Stevia Products Stand Up?

Dear Folks,

When Stevia finally became available (approved by the FDA for the US) for purchase as a sweetener or substitute for sugar in foods I stood up and clapped.  You may have also been doing a happy dance along with a couple of million-billion people.

But as the products begun to roll out I was not happy with what I thought of as mis-direction information - so like I always do when I get curious, I went searching for information.

I've written about so-called "stevia" products in the past here on the blog.  Use the search function on the side bar to find posts of interest to you.

Cargill and Coca Cola were probably instrumental in getting the FDA to relent and finally allow Stevia to be sold as a sweetener, but the trade off is a plethora of pseudo-stevia products which are only "stevia" because they contain some form of the Stevioside (the technical name for the element which gives the sweetness).

As I've noted on other posts I was really, really concerned about Truvia's "natural flavor" ingredient.  Sigh.  Well it did not take long to find out that "natural flavor(s)" is so generic you can't find out what "it" is and further a company can literally create something in the laboratory and call it a trade secret.  This is not about boiling juice down to make a concentrate, but manufacturing, in the fullest sense of the word, food components.

Think "pink slime" - the public became outraged over the manufacturing process which included adding ammonia to the 'processed' meat.

The public needs to get outraged over this on-going hijacking of the word 'natural'.

You know those cautions some of our more knowledgeable wise-people keep suggesting about 'do not buy anything with ingredients which you can't pronounce or sound like chemicals'?

How about NSF-02, the name for the natural flavor modifier patented by PureCircle producer of PureVia™ ?  Except you won't see that reference on the package ingredients list, you will see "natural flavors".

Companies like Merisant (owner of PureCircle), Coke and Cargill in concert with the FDA have created a whole new "natural" created in laboratories and natural in original source material only and who knows what else they introduced which is not natural but can still be called 'natural' because the FDA in using their fuzzy logic says they can. Remember the 'pink slime' is called natural and safe.

Read up on NSF-02 here

This is so different from a farmer or orchardist coming up with a hybrid of an edible (JohnnySeeds' "Partenon (F1) organic seed" which is a zucchini hybrid).  F1 refers to a hybrid, and Johnny's carries organic and some non-organic seeds.  FYI They signed on to the safe seed pledge to not knowing carry GMO seeds.

I think as consumers, if we have be told through labels and advertising something is natural and there are unrecognizable names on the ingredients IT AIN'T NATURAL!

If it does not say 'licorice or strawberry or vanilla' flavoring on it and only says "natural flavors" when describing a vanilla ice cream or cookie IT IS NOT NATURAL.

Here is a list of so-called Stevia products I deem UN-NATURAL*:


* a new to me product just came out within the last couple of months - name escapes me - but it too has "natural flavor" in the ingredients - be informed.

 Sort of okay:

Stevia In The Raw (in addition to stevia uses dextrose - usually derived from corn - so my question is do they use GMO corn).

My Preference:

SweetLeaf -- contains stevia and inulin soluble fiber for bulk - inulin is one of the recommended fibers for health  --  (I do not know where they get the vegetable fiber for the inulin, but they won an award from Vegetarian Times - so I think that kind of testimonial is worth a look/try.)

Let's be vocal and mindful in our both our concerns about where and how our food is sourced, but also always, always read the labels and make conscious good choices for ourselves and our family.

I am not a purist per se, it just about trying to, most of the time, make informed choices.  Do I have guilty pleasures? Sure.  I'm human and have been around long enough (quite awhile in fact) that I have seen the good stuff, the processed stuff, the realization of the need to ask questions about WHERE the food comes from, and a renewed focus on unintended consequences.

Convenience food always has consequences, whether the convenience is some-one-made-it-easy, to some-one-made-it, i.e, created out of a laboratory.  In the least worse case, the food is nutritious, made of good stuff and you have to decide what to do with the packaging.  In worst case, it has negative consequences on your health, environment, and community.  Given the ongoing debate on health care and costs, there is a very radical concept being floated that people who continuously make unhealthy choices should pay more for health care -- chew on that for a while and ponder this generalized statement:

"Buying organic or natural food is too expensive."  Someone posted that on facebook recently.

My Response:

$ cheap food
$$ to purchase mostly healthy food choices
$$$$ to purchase cheap/poor/manufactured food + supplements +doctor visits +medicine +hospital care, to compensate for the poor food.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady