The Controversy and the Ban
Stevia has been used for 1500 years in South America and is the most popular non-caloric sweetener in Japan. In 1981, aspartame was approved for use as an artificial sweetener … around the same time that saccharin was pulled off the market after studies showed potential cancer risks. Stevia’s own relationship with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) remains controversial at best. In the late 1980’s, health food stores began selling stevia as a natural sugar substitute. When the FDA received an anonymous complaint about stevia, it banned all imports and sales of the herb in the US.
After years of pressure from consumers and the health food industry, Congress passed the Dietary supplement & Health Education Act in November 1994. This act permitted the purchase and sale of stevia as a dietary supplement – not as a food or food additive. The Act also set forth rigorous guidelines for the labeling, sales and marketing of the herb. Simply suggesting that the stevia be mixed with water could be construed as mislabeling and force a recall of the products. These burdensome regulations eventually led to the FDA’s order to ban this book. For more information about the stevia/FDA controversy, read The Stevia story, A Tale Of Incredible Sweetness And Intrigue by Linda & Bill Sonvie and Donna Gates.
The FDA Destruction Order
On May 19, 1998, the president of Stevia Company (a distributor of Stevia in Arlington, Texas) received a fax from the Dallas District office of the FDA that ordered the seizure and destruction of cookbooks and other literature. The fax read: ” … a current inventory must be taken by an investigator of this office, who will also be available to witness destruction of the cookbooks, literature, and other publications…” Additionally, your stevia products currently in distributor and retail channels with the offending cookbooks, literature, and other publica-
tion continue to be in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. These products are unapproved food additives in violation of Section 409, and adulterated within the meaning of Section 402(a)(2)(c) of the Act.”
What was the real reason the FDA singled out these publications for destruction? Mary Nash Stoddard sums it up in her article of June of 1998, published in Nutrition & Healing:
“Do these books tell people how to commit terrorist acts? No. Do they contain pornography of any kind? No. Do they instruct potential criminals on how to set up a lab to produce LSD or Crack Cocaine: No. The FDA ordered the drastic action because the books contain general information that includes: history,
usages and scientific studies regarding stevia – a naturally sweet non-caloric herb with an impeccable history of safe use – and because current federal law requires that stevia herbal products be marketed as dietary supplements without being labeled as sweeteners.”
According to the FDA regulations, Stevita Company’s sale of stevia-related publications was illegal. Allegedly, the FDA even raided local health food stores looking for the offensive cookbook. It is legal to sell literature about the stevia herb, but you may not place the publications next to the supplements. The FDA took this regulation a step further by saying that Stevita Company’s distribution of Cooking With Stevia violated the stringent labeling regulations imposed on stevia. Regulations like these continue to frustrate everyone in the health food industry.
Cooking With Stevia – Marked for Destruction by the FDA
That same day, two agents of the FDA arrived at Stevita Co. to inventory all of the company’s stevia supplements, books and promotional literature. Then they met with the company president to discuss the recall and destruction order of Cooking with Stevia. Just as their conversation began, a crew from a local news station arrived. The mood changed quickly as the FDA agents questioned why the reporter was there.
The president’s reply: “To record the burning of the books!”
FDA agents: “Oh no, we are not going to burn the books, YOU are!”
President (after a brief pause): “I’m sorry, I can’t do that. I don’t have a permit from the local fire department. You’ll have to do it.”
The two agents whispered back and forth before deciding to call their office for further instructions. They were told to mark all of the remaining cooking with Stevia books by initialing and dating the inside covers of each book. Supposedly, these marks would help keep track of the cookbooks until they were officially destroyed. In reality, once marked, these books were no longer ‘new’ and could not be sold in the stores. This action was taken by the FDA without a court order authorizing the destruction of private property.
As it ended up, my books were not officially destroyed that day. However, during the following months, the FDA seized all of Stevita’s inventory forcing the company to comply with the recall and destruction order. This action practically put Stevita company out of business. Only after lengthy litigation was the company was allowed to resume distribution of some publications, but not cooking With Stevia.
You Can Help
The co-authors of The Stevia story, A Tale Of Incredible Sweetness And Intrigue, Linda and Bill Bonvie, posted the following on their internet website:
“Given stevia’s record as a completely safe (and beneficial) herbal product, and given that it now may be purchased legally in the country, just what is the FDA afraid of? That Americans will learn about stevia – that it’s actually both sweet and non-caloric? Try it? Want to use it? The FDA’s prior attempts to control stevia as if it were a dangerous drug had the appearance to many of being a restraint of trade; now that it can be legally sold and used, the agency has gone further and is apparently trying to restrain
ideas, information and criticism of its own behavior – trying, in essence, to act as a sort of ‘thought police: This is a very important issue, which should be carefully followed by everyone – whether you like stevia or not – even if you’ve never tasted it.”
Go to our website: http://www.CookingWithStevia.com and gather more information. Decide how you can get involved to stop the government from railroading this wonderful herb.