Stevia Book Burning

For an herb that has been around for centuries and used by so many people without adverse effects, one might think that stevia would be a welcome addition to the roster of commonly accepted foods. Instead, its exceptional sweetness has made it the subject of much Kafka-type intrigue involving the FDA — even after passage of legislation that allowed it to be marketed as a dietary supplement.

The stevia story — which had previously been characterized by official ambiguity, secret “trade complaints,” a full-fledged “import alert,” and FDA searches and seizures — took another bizarre turn in May of ’98 when the FDA directed a Texas-based distributor of stevia dietary supplements, Stevita Company, to destroy three books on its history, benefits and uses. (One of the books targeted by the FDA was “The Stevia Story; A tale of incredible sweetness & intrigue” by Linda and Bill Bonvie and Donna Gates). The directive was the result of a determination that literature describing stevia’s sweetening capabilities somehow violated a ban on the labeling of such supplements as sweeteners.

In a letter to the company president, FDA compliance officer James R. Lahar wrote that an investigator would not only be coming around to take a current inventory, but would also “be available to witness the destruction of the cookbooks, literature and other publications for the purpose of verifying compliance.”

Destruction of literature? It was what the FDA later conceded was an “inartfully worded” statement — that is, worded in such a manner so as to pose a threat to the entire herbal industry. It was also the kind of language that hit the media right where it lives in the shelter of the First Amendment.

With the smell of burning books in the air, the Texas division of the American Civil Liberties Union became involved in the issue, as did media ranging from the Christian Broadcasting Network to newspapers in Texas, New Jersey and Wyoming. The story hit the Internet big time, with numerous news group postings and Web sites reporting on the situation.

Besieged by calls from reporters, the FDA changed its tune. In a letter to the firm that June, the agency authorized the release of the company’s stevia dietary supplement products from detention, and maintained it had “no issues” with two of the books.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

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mohsen mirzasharafi May 29, 2013 at 2:27 pm

i am mohsen mirzasharafi Agriculture students home is iran i cannot good read and speake en
i go to grow stevia but unknow into…
you can help me in Cultivation .Fertilizer. Irrigation .Maintenance. Harvest Time

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Mary Ellen Bowen April 16, 2012 at 9:30 pm

We at the Book Publishing Company have a great book, Stevia–Naturally Sweet Recipes for Desserts, Drinks and More–that would especially compliment any site dealing with stevia. This book is a good seller because it provides customers with excellent information on using stevia products. I would be happy to send a review copy. Mary Ellen, Healthy Living Campaign Manager, 931-964-3571.

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Julian Wright March 4, 2013 at 7:37 pm

As a publisher, I would love a review copy of your book, but as a gardener and diabetic the prospect just gets more enticing. It doesn’t seem to be as readily available as you would think over this side of the pond, but I will keep trying
2c Exeter Bulidings, Redland, Bristol.England Bs6 6th
Kind Regards
Julian Wright

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ron November 29, 2011 at 3:42 am

This country with all its governing and regulatory body’s is supposed to do checks and balances on each other. But anyone that isn’t sleeping through life can plainly see that our country is full of corruption from top to bottom. Eventually this will destroy our country. Only way out is put our trust back in God not in money or power. Stevia proves this it is completely harmless and the FDA knows it they would rather approve fake sweeteners that cause health problems becauae the companies that produce artificial sweetners have paid the FDA. Off to allow them to sell there poison and not allow stevia as a sweetner.

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GHANSHYAM November 16, 2011 at 5:17 am

DEAR SIR
MY NAME IS GHANSHYAM
I AM FROM INDIA (GUJARAT)
MY MOBILE NO :- +91 9327347488

I HAVE STEVIA cultivation IN INDIA
BUT I HAVE NOT IDIA TO STEVIA LEAP SALING MARKET.
PLEAS GIVE ME RESPONSE TO STEVIA SALE MARKET

THANKS FOR YOU
GHANSHYAM SANGHANI

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Robert Hawk October 12, 2011 at 9:52 am

This is when the Federal Government oversteps it bounds of authority and violates the 1st amendment rights to free press in order to serve the political whims of the well lobbied food additive business, specifically man made food additives. Stevia is a huge threat to man made food additives such as Nutra-Sweet and Splenda. Why? Because there is ample historical fact that Stevia does not have any side effects and is not dangerous for human consumption. Stevia has been used historically for hundreds of years as a sweetener in many countries.

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Almira Stirrup May 12, 2011 at 11:22 pm

Its a wonder to me the lengths people will go to keep a hold of what they have. Stevia sweating could be the best way to move on, and yet others think only of themselves and what they think to be “right”.

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Jesse March 5, 2011 at 8:14 pm

It’s amazing that common sense is so hard to find in Government. If our country’s leaders were indeed “for the people, by the people” they would see that keeping people healthy would SAVE Billions of dollars in health care and Government handouts. The processed food industry is killing Americans for no good reason at all. I bet if they realized that they were not only killing themselves in the process but also their families too. Eating less refined or processed anything would keep our body’s working so much more efficiently and we would eat a whole lot less! I’ll just keep sending positive energy because it will get through and on a spiritual level Let the Holy Spirit talk to them and have them listen to the whispers!

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Joe Hultgren February 8, 2011 at 7:07 pm

FDA has proven to be one of the most corrupt government agency of all.
It’s frightening how the big corporations reward the officials with big fat contracts for their decisions.

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