Excerpt: There is a new sweetener on the horizon that may soon get FDA approval for use as an ingredient in food and beverage products here in the United States. Stevia is a shrub-like plant native to South America and part of the chrysanthemum family.
The Guarani Indians of Paraguay have used the leaves to make medicinal teas and sweeten beverages for centuries. The herb has been used as a sweetener in Japan for many years but, here in the U.S., stevia has been approved for use only as a dietary supplement. The supplement packaging cannot contain the words "sweet" or "sweetener" and currently is marketed as an herb. Food and beverage producers must prove the safety of the new ingredient before the FDA will allow its use in our food supply.