Steviol glycosides are a type of intense sweetener usually made from the leaves of the Stevia plant (Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni) but they can also be produced using other methods. Steviol glycosides are around 150-300 times sweeter than sugar, and only a small amount is needed to match the sweetness of regular sugar.
The Food Standards Code allows steviol glycosides to be added to certain foods as a food additive. There are three approved ways to produce steviol glycosides in Australia and New Zealand:
- Extraction directly from the leaves of the stevia plant, followed by concentration and purification.
- Use of enzymes to convert stevia leaf extract into different types of steviol glycosides. The enzymes used in this process are sourced from genetically modified microorganisms.
- Fermentation from sugar (not from the stevia plant) to produce the steviol glycosides using genetically modified yeast.
When added to food, steviol glycosides must be declared in the ingredient list by the appropriate food additive class name followed by the code number or name in brackets, for example, 'sweetener (960)' or 'sweetener (steviol glycosides)'.
FSANZ, together with the Ministry for Primary Industries in New Zealand recently conducted a risk assessment for steviol glycosides. This involved analysing the steviol glycoside content of a range of commercially available foods along with a dietary exposure assessment for both countries. No public health and safety issues were identified as a result of the risk assessment. For further information, see the full report below.
If you would like to know how the steviol glycosides in a particular product are produced, you can ask the manufacturer for that information.
See below examples of applications for different methods of production previously assessed by FSANZ.
Method of production 1. Extraction directly from the leaves
A1132 - Broaden Definition of Steviol Glycosides (Intense Sweeteners)
Method of production 2. Enzymatic conversion
A1183 – Enzymatic production of Rebaudioside E
Method of production 3. Fermentation
A1207 – Rebaudioside M as a Steviol Glycoside from Saccharomyces cerevisiae