August 13, 2008

Why Does This Make Me Leery?

Word on the street is that a new "natural, no-calorie sweetener" will be hitting our store shelves soon. Unlike thinks like Sweet 'N Low, Equal and Splenda, which are artificial sweetners, this new stuff (called Truvia) is made from compounds in the leaves of stevia (a shrub native to Paraguay).

This is the stevia plant. The plant has been grown, harvested and used in South America to sweeten foods and beverages for more than 200 years.

While we can expect to see this stuff in the stores this fall, we are going to start seeing it as a sweetener in beverages and foods (like yogurts, cereals & snack bars) early next year. Coca-Cola co-developed the product with Cargill and has exclusive rights to using Truvia in beverages ... so expect the first roll-out there.

It seems like every time there is a new "miracle" ingredient, bad things follow. Remember the huge deal about Olestra? As fat substitute that adds no fat, calories or cholesterol to products it was first used in WOW brand potato chips by Frito-Lay. Things were all fine-and-dandy until some nasty side-effects were linked to Olestra and the FDA mandated this message be placed on all packages containing the ingredient:
This Product Contains Olestra. Olestra may cause abdominal cramping and loose stools. Olestra inhibits the absorption of some vitamins and other nutrients. Vitamins A, D, E, and K have been added.
Because of all that nasty publicity, the WOW chips are now referred to as "Lays Light". Just because you change the name doesnt mean that those gross side-effects no longer exist people!

Should we be worried about Truvia? Only time will tell. I, for one, will be keeping an eye on it. This is for two reasons 1) I expect some bad type of outcome and some "suprising" and "unknown" side-effects and 2) I currently hate the taste of the sweetener in Diet Coke and for that reason stik to the bad-for-you-but-oh-so-delicious sugary version of Coke. If this stuff is a miracle and can make Coke something that has no sugar but tastes delicious (and isnt going to kill me) then there might be a future Truvia convert in the house :)


meanjean said...

Have you tried Coke Zero? I imagine you have---I think its delcious. Granted, i drink Diet Coke, but i do love me some regular coke and I like Coke Zero!!

Joe B said...

Stevia's actually really safe; it's been around for years and used in Central/South America for longer than that. It's just a tropical herb. You can buy it at natural foods stores in packets or liquid drops under the SweetLeaf brand. I used to work at Celestial Seasonings and we used it in teas. Coke and anyone else who wants to use it as a sweetener has a bit of a regulatory hill to climb; the sugar lobby has the FDA making it so that you can't technically use stevia as a sweetner - you have to label the product as a 'dietary supplement' - which will pose some issues when they go to sell the product; I would think. Food for thought....

labcabbie said...

I just want to add that I use Stevia regularly as a sweetner in my tea . . . so I agree with joe b. I understand your concern though!