In the News: FDA Rules on Stevia, Diet Coke Plus


By: , SparkPeople Blogger

In the last few days before the administration changes hands, the FDA has been hard at work making changes.

Here are two of the most interesting rulings:

FDA Says Diet Coke Plus Mislabeled

In 2007, Coke started selling Diet Coke Plus, also called Coca Light Plus, which is the diet cola with added vitamins and minerals.

Eight ounces of the beverage has 15% of your Reference Daily Intake of niacin, B6, B12, and 10% of your zinc and magnesium, according to the company.

The trouble was not the product but the name, ruled the FDA. "Plus" is a regulated word in the food and beverage industry. Whether that "plus" is meant to indicate added sugar, vitamins or even water, it must meet certain FDA requirements to carry that name.

A food labeled "plus" must contain at least 10% more of the Reference Daily Intake or Daily Reference Value compared with the usual amount. The Diet Coke Plus label does not mention the increased amount of vitamins and minerals. However, Diet Coke Plus was cited for breaking another regulation: the "Jelly Bean" rule.
From the warning letter sent to Coke: "Your product Diet Coke Plus is a carbonated beverage. The policy on fortification … states that the FDA does not consider it appropriate to fortify snack foods such as carbonated beverages."

This doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with the actual product. It means that the FDA thinks the product was mislabeled. This month Coke responded: "We take seriously the issues raised by the FDA in its letter. This does not involve any health or safety issues, and we believe the label on Diet Coke Plus complies with FDA's policies and regulations."

It's not clear what will happen with the Diet Coke Plus ruling. The FDA has been known to reverse decisions, or Coke could change the name or labeling. We'll keep you posted.

Stevia Approved for Use in Food, Beverages

Also last month, the FDA approved stevia for use in food and beverages. The zero-calorie sweetener, which is a refined version of a South American plant, had previously been marketed only as a dietary supplement. The FDA concluded " that it has no objection to [stevia] at 95 percent purity or above, having GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status as a general purpose sweetener for food and drink, not just as a supplement."

There's quite a demand for the sweetener: Coke will launch Sprite Green this month and a line of Odwalla juice drinks sweetened with Truvia, the brand name of the stevia that Coke and Cargill have partnered to develop.

Meanwhile, Pepsi will soon unveil three flavors of its SoBe Lifewater sweetened with its proprietary version of stevia, PureVia.

Stay tuned to SparkPeople for more news about the plant-based sweetener, which is said to have a negligible effect on blood sugar. A few of us here did an unofficial taste test of stevia awhile back.

Two of us didn't care for it and thought it had a chalky, fake taste and a strange, too-sweet aftertaste. However, it's important to mention that those two are not fans of any sweeteners. Two other co-workers liked it. They said it was sweet but not too sweet (though you use a much smaller volume of it than you would sugar), and it was perfectly undetectable in coffee. They'd use it in coffee, tea or other beverages.

We'll do a real taste test when we spot stevia-sweetened drinks on store shelves.

Do you drink Diet Coke Plus instead of other diet sodas? Why? Have you tried stevia? What did you think?

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  • 198
    I've used the liquid and the powdered forms of Stevia; they both leave a funny aftertaste in the back of my mouth that lingers a long time (an hour or so). And by the way, the two people that took the taste test and didn't like it...the two that don't like any other artificial sweeteners--their opinions are totally useless. That's like asking a vegan to judge the prime rib...usless information. - 1/11/2009   1:58:21 AM
  • 197
    I have tried both and I know that stevia is a natural sweetner that comes from a plant that you can grow in your home or garden. I love it save for in the rawest form. It is green and has a little bit of an after taste. They now have it in liquid form that has flavors added to it that I love in my coffee or other beverages. - 1/10/2009   9:32:32 PM
    I quit drinking diet coke and all carbonated beverages the year I was turning 40. I did a lot of research on bone density and learned that the carbonation in soda depletes your bones of density! The other benefit was that I got OFF artificial sweeteners. Do a little research on those chemical sweeteners and you'll never use them again. Now all I drink is water, tea and milk. (My doctor says I have great bone density:)) - 1/10/2009   2:14:23 PM
  • 195
    I have to admit, i very seldom drink pop - we were never given it as children except when out and probably never really developed a taste for it. when i do drink it though i can't stand the diet stuff, like many others i find the aftertaste is too bitter - so i'd usually plop for the real full sugar stuff (coke's too sweet so i go half half with lemonade). Having said that i haven't drunk any in about 10 weeks and don't really crave it like i do some other foods. It's water or (occasionally) fruit juice for me - 1/10/2009   12:35:38 PM
  • 194
    I like that Stevia is plant. I knew a woman who grew it on her windowsill & would dry stalks & then just crush them very fine in a mortar & pestle to use as sweetner in her tea & coffee. I've tried it & found I use much less for the sweet taste I like in tea & coffee. Does Coke Plus only use this stevia stuff? I don't think I've seen coke plus around where I live. Aspartame has always made me stomach sick & it tastes bitter to boot. My brother once tried to trick me into drinking regular diet soda thinking I'd not be able to tell the diff (he can't), but I knew right away. Blech, tastes like drinking Draino. I'd like to see more Stevia use, it IS a natural product - moreso than Splenda! - 1/10/2009   11:52:26 AM
  • 193
    I have tried Diet Coke Plus. It was an average tasting diet drink with after taste from the vitamins. I really thought the vitamin benefits were negated by the diet Coke's artificial sweetener and the carbonation.
    Lately, I have sworn off carbonated beverages. It is a hard habit to kick. I drink unsweetened tea now.
    I have not tried stevia. My sister has an says it is beneficial for her.
    I may try some of the products during 2009. I am a bit interested in PureVia. We'll see. - 1/10/2009   4:01:40 AM
  • 192
    I grew Stevia this past summer...picked up a plant at the Co-op. It was quite hardy, and pretty, and survived well into the fall. I am not a big beverage sweetener person, even though I love sweet baked goods...I drink coffee and herbal tea without sugar. I do enjoy honey in a rare while in tea, and so tried the stevia there; also tried the packages stevia that the Co-op was giving out. Quite good...glad there is a sweet herb. - 1/10/2009   3:53:43 AM
  • 191
    Oh Wow This is such a crazy topic for Me personaly. I have a Very unfortunate Soda adiction I'm trying to break, But I have not been able to drink diet pop, because nutrasweet (whats in most diet stuff) gives me headachs, and while i like splenda to make things at home such as lemonade, kool aid, etc, I Can't stand it in pop, I Think they use way to much to make up for the 'real sugar' so just get too much of that off taste.

    And thats so weird about the coke, some things i get being picky about labeling to protect us, But isn't it very obvious what coke plus is or isn't regardless of what they call it lol? - 1/10/2009   12:41:08 AM
  • 190
    I have been using stevia for about 3 months. I like it. I think it tastes better than artificial sweetners. I recently bought PureVia, and I like it as well. - 1/9/2009   10:32:39 PM
    I have just recently tried Purevia, which is made from stevia, and I like it in my coffee. I use 1/3 of a packet or less to sweeten just a bit. It seems to have a very smooth sweetness. I will try it on oatmeal next. - 1/9/2009   9:38:58 PM
  • 188
    I, too, don't drink any soda and can't stand even a little sip of the diet ones. They taste awful to me altho' my husband drinks them because he's diabetic. I keep preaching "Drink water!" but he doesn't listen. I always choose water and love it but it does take time to get un-addicted to soda, or any sugar for that matter. I'm just so glad Stevia has finally become legal! Sometimes I think our government is just like an ostrich! Wake up and look around the world to see how other countries sweeten things, do alternative supplements instead of drugs, etc. Stevia can be used in cooking and I even have a Stevia cookbook, but it takes some experimenting and the major key is to use just a little bit. - 1/9/2009   5:31:01 PM
  • 187
    I tried stevia years ago. It does have a strange taste. But I'd be willing to try it again for my health and my sweet tooth. - 1/9/2009   2:15:45 PM
  • 186
    I used stevia years ago. It was ok, but I thought it was too sweet, and a little bitter.
    I don't use it anymore. I just don't care for it. I would rather use splenda. It's harder to cook with stevia, too. THings really didn't taste good when cooking with it. I guess you could mix stevia and splenda togther to cook with it. - 1/9/2009   1:54:13 PM
  • 185
    I cannot drink diet sodas. It's all or nothing with me. I just stick to lower sugar 100% fruit juices and water! - 1/9/2009   12:49:41 PM
  • 184
    I'm switching to Stevia by using one Splenda and one Stevia packet in my large mugs of tea. Previously, I used 3 packets of Splenda in each large mug. Eventuallly I'll just use the Stevia but this way I gradually get used to the taste change.
    I did this method to switch my family from white rice to brown rice a year ago. I mixed in more and more brown rice with the their usual white rice until they got used to the brown rice.
    It works! - 1/9/2009   12:36:58 PM
  • 183
    I have never tried Stevia. I tried Splenda once and it made me sooooo sick so I am reluctant to try other artificial sweeteners. I either don't sweeten it or use real sugar. - 1/9/2009   12:12:06 PM
    Stevia is just as natural as sugar. For both, most people do not use the actual plant, they use something processed from the plant (though in the interior of Mexico where sugar cane is grown, the people do chew on sugar cane itself). I use stevia and I like it.
    I do not use the artificial sweeteners any more, and I do not drink any soda pop or anything with caffeine anymore. - 1/9/2009   12:00:40 PM
  • OSUFAN74
    Do you drink Diet Coke Plus instead of other diet sodas? Why? Have you tried stevia?

    For one I cant stand a diet drink, I think they are the nastiest tasting drink around! Sry all you diet drinkers. When I get serious (which I just recently started again!)about my healthy drinking which consists of 1% or super skim milk, 100% juice, and lots of water! - 1/9/2009   11:33:06 AM
  • 180
    I haven't had any Coke in MANY years. I am having some problems with our Department of Agriculture rules and regulations and PROMOTIONS about the foods we eat. Personally I am not certain it's wrong to fortify so-called "snack foods." I think the Baked Whole-grain Wheat Triscuit crackers I like are considered "snack food," but isn't a big part of the whole idea to eat healthier snacks? I guess the problem really is that there is a movement against soda in general these days as "unhealthy." Why not work at making them healthier? - 1/9/2009   10:38:10 AM
  • 179
    I purchased powder and granulated Stevia, and love it. I don't find it's that much different from other popular sweetners, it's just knowing I'm not putting some chemical crap in my body (as we've been warned so many times with artificial sweetners). So I can put a little sweet touch to my hot and cold drinks, without feeling guilty. Voilà! - 1/9/2009   9:45:32 AM
  • 178
    I can't stand the taste of any artificial sweetener. My wife tried Stevia in her coffee and liked it. I don't know if we will buy it though -- it depends on the price versus Splenda. - 1/9/2009   7:45:09 AM
  • 177
    Ive used stevia for years. As a few noted here, it is a plant and the leaves can be placed in tea while it's steeping. Ive used the powder form but have been looking for the plant/seeds to grow my own. Some have noted an aftertaste. You need to find the non-bitter variety of powder/liquid. Also, some who are unfamiliar with this natural plant sweetener, tend to use too much and that can cause an overly sweet, unusual aftertaste. I only use 1/8 - 1/4 tsp per cup of tea. I also only use about that much in my oatmeal or plain yogurt. So watch the amounts.
    As for adding this to sodas.....seems wierdly unnatural to add a nature sweetener to an unnatural beverage. - 1/9/2009   7:36:42 AM
  • 176
    I wonder if the two members who didn't care for any sweeteners happened to be supertasters. I'm having trouble cutting sugar and honey from my diet (I drink a lot of teas) because I'm a supertaster and all the artificial sweeteners taste horrible to me. I use teas for relaxation and to help me sleep, and also to ease my throat and voice during work, so cutting back on them, realistically, isn't going to happen soon. - 1/9/2009   1:53:16 AM
    My doctor introduced me to stevia about a year or so ago. I really like it, and it seems to help my blood sugar level balance out enough for me to notice! My kids even like it...I found liquid stevia - four flavors in a nice little travel tin - I take it with me when I go out to eat. One is a lemon flavor that goes great in tea! (my mom is a sweet and low fan and doesnt care for stevia) Different strokes for different folks eh? - 1/9/2009   1:07:02 AM
  • IMANURSE2009
    I used Stevia several years ago when I started Sommersizing. With time, I gave up ALL artificial sweetener and went back to good ol' fashioned sugar. Here I am, 5 years and 40 lbs heavier, Thrilled to hear about the FDA ruling. I'll definitely go back to using Stevia and will even give Diet Coke Plus a try. Between this and recently getting "Sparked", perhaps I'll finally find a permanent weight loss solution. Thanks SparkPeople!!! - 1/9/2009   12:34:31 AM
  • 173
    I have never Stevia, but I have heard a lot about it. I am not a big soda drinker... I love water - 1/9/2009   12:26:35 AM
    Have never tried the new diet coke actually seems kind of silly to me. I have tried stevia before didn't care for the powder like texture or the after-taste. I think I will stick to water and skip a sweetner in anything. - 1/8/2009   10:45:49 PM
  • 171
    I am thrilled about the news about stevia, I have a thyroid disorder and have chosen not to have aspartame because of possible links to Graves desease. Splenda has the same effect on the thyroid so that is out. So, I had to give up Diet DP and Coke Zero! So I hope they change the formula and add stevia instead! - 1/8/2009   8:45:12 PM
    I have a food intolerance to refined sugars and have been using stevia for seven years. I buy it in the pure powdered form because I can't tolerate the stuff they mix it with in the packets. It took me a while to figure out how to adapt recipes and such, and I find it works best combined with a bit of something else (honey, etc.). - 1/8/2009   7:58:17 PM
  • 169
    I have been using Stevia for a while. It did take alittle getting used to but now I really like it. I use it in coffee, tea and oatmeal. I have never tried it in cooking or baking. - 1/8/2009   7:09:56 PM
  • 168
    I have tried Stevia in the past and was not pleased with the aftertaste. Suzanne Somers has a product called SomerSweet that is the best sweetner alternative that I have found. It is fantastic in foods that are chilled such as whipped cream, iced tea, etc. When used in things that are cooked, it still does not measure up to real sugar. - 1/8/2009   6:51:59 PM
    Have not tried either one. May try the sugar substitute but stay away from caffein - 1/8/2009   5:25:00 PM
    I tried stevia in my coffee ( I personally use splenda), but I thought the stevia had a bitter taste. - 1/8/2009   4:53:22 PM
  • 165
    Since 'plus' means at least 10% more, wouldn't it be appropriate to call it diet coke plus? normal diet coke has 0%, so 15% is not just 10% more, it's an infinitely large amount more! - 1/8/2009   4:44:09 PM
  • 164
    I've been using Stevia for over a year now. I use the NuNaturals White Stevia Powder brand. It is sweet and has no aftertaste!! I even use it in cold drinks liked iced tea and it dissolves just fine. However, so far the only place I can buy it is at Whole Foods. I am thrilled to learn that it has been approved by the FDA.

    It's about time they did something right!!
    - 1/8/2009   4:21:13 PM
  • 163
    I didn't have time to read all the posts, and this may have already been mentioned, but just in case...

    This topic has already come up in my Clean Eating and Natural Healing teams, where we are all thrilled that Stevia ia finally getting "its due". Stevia does have a little bit of an aftertaste, but word is that the Truvia brand is derived from the center part of the Stevia plant and does not have the aftertaste. I imagine it is something we will each have to try for ourselves, but isn't it great that we finally have an option that is healthy?!?!? - 1/8/2009   4:16:07 PM
  • 162
    Seeing as I don't drink sodas, this will not have any effect on me. I have used Stevia, but it is a different taste. - 1/8/2009   3:50:32 PM
  • 161
    I've used stevia in the past, but I found that it was easier to get used to drinking tea or coffee without sweetener than it was to get used to stevia's bitter aftertaste. I can't imagine drinking soda sweetened with stevia, but other people haven't commented on the aftertaste so maybe it's just me...?! - 1/8/2009   3:33:21 PM
  • 160
    I don't dring any sodas!! I think they are a waste of money. I'm into the free old standby, water. If it was good enough for Grandma, it is good enough for me :)) - 1/8/2009   2:53:50 PM
  • 159
    I have known about stevia for about 20 or so years, when it was illegal to sell in stores, as it might not be 'safe'! (I'm so glad our government is taking 'care' of us! ;*} ) And artificial sweeteners are safe? I have grown the Stevia plant, sold it where I worked, chewed on the leaves, and bought the 'Sweet Leaf' brand of stevia. I could only find it at Whole Foods, (now also at Trader Joe's) and it's expensive. But, when I can't afford it, I'll survive. It's great in Iced Tea. It does have a tendency to NOT disolve in cold liquids, ergo, great to use in tea while it's still hot. I hope the new brand ~Truvia~ has nothing added to it. - 1/8/2009   2:48:30 PM
  • 158
    WoooHooo! I'm so excited Stevia is finally approved! Of course, it took big businesses "developing" their own proprietary versions, but at least we will soon be able to get foods without sugar OR artificial sweeteners. - 1/8/2009   2:20:08 PM
  • LESLIE49
    Water is my drink of choice. Stevia is my sweetner. I have used it for years. When you think about the chemical processes that Asparteme and Sucralose have go through it only makes sense to go with a natural sweetner. I for one get very sick when using anything that has Asparteme in it so finding Stevia was a blessing. It does have an aquired taste... just like lots of others things such as coffee and tea... and I am hooked on those too! lol - 1/8/2009   2:07:18 PM
  • 156
    I don't understand why so many are anti-sugar subs. The LABS as all seem to place it was extreme over use of it in lab rats cause cancer. Well alert folks, any thing in excess will cause a health problems. I drink a diet soda occasionally. Not 30 12 packs a day maybe 3 - 4 a week. But that is me, every one has their own thoughts about everything. That is what America is all about CHOICES!!! - 1/8/2009   1:25:41 PM
  • 155
    I drink soda rarely, and when I do, it's the real stuff. I'm also in the camp of those who wouldn't touch the fake sweeteners with a ten foot pole...but stevia is in its own camp, at least in the state I've found it in thus far...who knows what will happen when major corporations start messing with it and formulating their own brands. Considering that the FDA has approved use of many things I wouldn't put in my body, I wonder what they will be able to legally add to their own stevia blends without public knowledge of the difference. To those who don't do artificial sweeteners-do you research on stevia and decide for yourself...and then keep tabs on what these companies do with it. It may be a great change from those chemicals they usually put in the can. Either way, I won't become a daily drinker just because its available carbonated now!
    And yes, nothing fake ever tastes like sugar. Besides, stevia makes me kinda gassy! :o) - 1/8/2009   1:12:58 PM
  • MAGS192
    I avoid all artificial sweetners because as far as I'm concerned they belong in a science lab and not in food. I use a small amount of sugar because it is much closer to it's natural state. I don't know enough about stevia to determine how natural it actually is, as "natural" on food lableing can be meaningless. - 1/8/2009   1:04:19 PM
  • 153
    I'm a water drinker except for special occasions and/or eating out every now and then. So, it really doesn't matter to me. I would try the new Diet Coke just out of curiousity, but it's not something that should be made a part of anyone's regular diet anyway.

    As for the sweeteners, I'm a natural foods kind of girl and prefer regular sugar. I really don't sweeten anything that I eat or drink, so that's just for cooking/baking. I guess I am a little more ok with this new sweetener that is made from a natural product instead of something that is manufactured from who knows what. I guess I would try it, but again, it's not something that I would add to my regular diet. - 1/8/2009   12:57:22 PM
  • 152
    I can't use any artificial sweeteners as they have a horrible effect on my stomach. But, I haven't tried the stevia and am no hurry to try it. I use sugar to sweeten my morning tea and don't drink any pop, so I'm fine with my little bit of sugar every day. Water is my drink of choice! :o) - 1/8/2009   12:44:16 PM
    I first heard of Stevia a few years ago when a coworker had a heart attack. It turns out he also was diabetic. His doctor told him that because of his medical conditions the only sweetener he should use is Stevia. I'm fine with unsweetened tea and coffee but oatmeal is too plain to me without something. Most days I sweeten my oatmeal with a little stevia. I don't notice any aftertaste at all in my oatmeal. I tried stevia in iced tea and it was good though like I said, I like iced tea just fine unsweetened.

    Growing up in Michigan I used to drink Vernor's Ginger Ale which was sweetened with Stevia since before the turn of the last century and only changed to high fructose corn syrup after the FDA banned Stevia as a sweetener. Few people know that this soda used stevia for so long.

    I've tried Zevia which is a Stevia sweetened soda in both the cola and the lemon flavors. The cola wasn't nearly as good as Coke to me but the lemon wasn't bad (though I like Sprite better). Since I like the taste of diet Coke I do look forward to Stevia based Coke. I understand that Coke used stevia in the Coke they sold in Japan for years. - 1/8/2009   12:38:48 PM
    I don't drink regular or diet cola drinks and have not tried any artificial sweeters to date. I guess I try to stick to things in their natural state as much as possible. I do enjoy a cup of hot tea daily with the real sugar in it and a splash of skim milk! - 1/8/2009   12:05:18 PM
  • 149
    I've used stevia, and some of the brands do have an after taste. I use NuNaturals and I know there is one other brand that doesn't have an after taste, but I don't remember the name right now. The best place to buy it is a health food store, you can ask them, some one should know the best brands. - 1/8/2009   11:48:27 AM

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