Many foods contain a chemical from Stevia, which is a herb that is very sweet and doesn’t add calories to food. It is considered a sugar substitute, the only one made from a plant (not in a factory) and it is 200 times sweeter than sugar.
But in a warning letter to the Ten Ren Tea Company of San Francisco, the FDA told them that whole leaf Stevia is not on the generally regarded as safe (GRAS) list. Whole Stevia leaves and “crude Stevia extracts” are not approved as food additives.
The FDA has received petitions for the use of whole-leaf Stevia and its crude extracts in food, but data to support its safe use have been lacking, according to the government. Literature reports raise safety concerns about the use of these forms of the plant.
There are concerns about effects of whole leaf Stevia on cardiovascular, renal, and reproductive systems in the human body. Only an isolated chemical from Stevia, called Rebaudioside A, is recognized as a food additive. Stevia may also interact with anti-inflammatory drugs, anti-cancer drugs, calcium channel blockers, cholesterol-lowering drugs, fertility agents, and other meds.
The Ten Ren Tea Company was prohibited from using Stevia leaf in their Ten Ren Chrysanthemum Tea and Hibiscus Spice Tea because it doesn’t satisfy the criteria for GRAS status. The FDA ruled that the Stevia leaf is a food additive that is deemed unsafe unless approved by the FDA for its intended use. That product is, therefore, misbranded.