A final decision on the EU use of stevia is expected by the end of the year

A final decision on the EU use of stevia is expected by the end of the year

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.

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 region. The European Parliament is set to look at the committee's decision. A final ruling is expected later this year.

UK-listed PureCircle, which 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."

Dr Luke Zhang, chairman and CEO of Canada-based supplier GLG Life Tech, said the committee's verdict was a "significant move forward". He said: "With the formal approval of stevia in France two years ago, a positive vote in November will mean that we’ll be that much closer to bringing our all natural, zero calorie stevia based sweetener solutions to European consumers."

The EU gave France the temporary right to allow products containing stevia to be sold in the country two years ago. Paris was able to approve the use of stevia under an EU law that allows member states to give the green light to ingredients for a limited two-year period before Brussels gives its full backing.

PureCircle said that the EU committee had also yesterday ruled to extend the temporary approval in France "to ensure no disruption to the French market".