The Stevia Saga

This is a Tale of Two Sweeteners, full of sound and fury, signifying that the FDA has sold you and your kids to the drug companies again, and you are unwitting receptacles of a sweetener that has obvious toxicity.

The Dark Side of Aspartame

If you drink diet sodas or add Equal or NutraSweet to your coffee, listen up. These sweeteners contain aspartame, which was first approved by the FDA in 1974. That approval was rescinded because of two studies showing that the substance caused brain tumors in laboratory animals.

These studies were never refuted, and the additive was approved in spite of these studies, in 1981, and for soft drinks in 1983. According to National Cancer Institute data, there was an alarming jump in the incidence of brain tumors in 1983-1987. The estimated annual percent change (EAPC) rose from 2.1% to 8.1% in males, and from 2.1% to 11.7% in females. This could be related to the consumption of aspartame-sweetened products.

A Natural Sweetener Is Banned by the FDA

Stevia, on the other hand, is a non-caloric herbal sweetener that is completely safe. This natural sweetener, which is 200 times sweeter than sugar, has long been used in teas, soft drinks, and other foods, and it is particularly popular in Japan and other Asian countries. Throughout its history, there have never been any complaints or concerns about its safety.

So what does the FDA do? Bans it!

Celestial Seasonings, one of the largest herbal tea companies in the world, used stevia as a flavoring and sweetener in many of its teas for years. In 1986, without warning, FDA agents entered their warehouse, seized their entire stock of stevia, and told them they could not use it in their teas.

Then in 1991, the FDA banned stevia altogether, claiming that in spite of its use worldwide as a sweetener additive with no reported side effects, it was an “unsafe food additive.”

We Fought Back – And Won

I was incensed by this behavior, which was so obviously geared to eliminate competition for aspartame, a chemical sweetener that is loaded with potential toxicity. I initiated a letter-writing campaign to FDA Commissioner David Kessler. Thousands responding, flooding his offices with letters asking why stevia, a food product with a record of hundreds of years of safe consumption and available in almost every other country in the world, was banned in the United States – and demanding that it be put back on the market.

Those intimately connected with the stevia story report that this letter-writing campaign helped, along with the tireless efforts of several manufacturers and other organizations. The FDA is now allowing stevia back on the market as a nutritional supplement. However, they continue the ban on stevia as a food additive.

The FDA Has Vested Interested

Folks, this ban is certainly not to protect you, the consumer. We know the FDA sides with the big boys against the small guys, and that it is capable of taking a natural, safe sweetener such as stevia and banning it as a food additive to protect the chemical giant Monsanto’s product NutraSweet. What perplexes me is that they do it so blatantly!

Why is stevia allowed back on the market as a nutritional supplement but not as a food additive? You can add stevia to your food as much as you wish, but a food manufacturing company cannot.
Federal law prohibits federal regulators from being “arbitrary and capricious” in their actions. Yet the FDA is arbitrary and capricious virtually all the time.



Monte, WC. Aspartame: methanol and the public health. J. of Applied Nutrition, November 1, 1984; 36:42-52.

Hicks, M. NutraSweet…too good to be true? General Aviation News, July 31, 1989.

Walton, RD, et al. Adverse reactions to aspartame: double-blind challenge in patients from a vulnerable population. Biol. Psychiatry, 1993: 34:13-17.

Roberts, HL. Does Aspartame cause human brain cancer. J. Advancement in Medicine. Winter 1991: 4(4):231-241.

Camfield, PR et al. Aspartame exacerbates EEG spike-wave discharge in children with generalized absence epilepsy: a double-blind controlled study. Neurology, May 1992; 42:1000-1003.


Curi, R et al. Effect of Stevia rebaudiana on glucose tolerance in normal adult humans. Braz. J. Med. Res., 1986: 19(6): 771-4.

Kinghorn, AD. Food ingredient safety review, Stevia rebaudiana leaves. Herb Research Foundation, Boulder, Colo., March 16, 1992.

Blumenthal, M. FDA petitioned to approve Stevia. Whole Foods, Feb. 1992:29-E31.

Modified from Health & Healing, November 1995, with permission from Phillips Health, LLC. © copyright 1995, Phillips Publishing, Inc. Photocopying, reproduction, or quotation strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher. To subscribe to Health & Healing, call (800) 539-8219.