We like to think that American means better, but it’s not really always the case. In some things American is good, in others, not so much. A perfect example is stevia. This is a sweetener originally from Paraguay. The indigenous peoples there have dried leaves from the stevia plant and put them in their tea for hundreds of years. In Japan, (where safety testing is far more rigorous than here) stevia accounts for 41% of all sweeteners sold.
Yet in America, introduction of stevia to the market would have been disastrous to sales of aspartame, now used ubiquitously in diet drinks and diet foods. Aspartame flunked all of it’s safety tests (it causes nerve and brain tissue damage) and was denied marketability by the FDA. Then the CEO of Searle, (the company who produces aspartame, now owned by Monsanto) one Donald Rumsfeld, left his job to become Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State. Exit old head of FDA, enter new — one Dr. Arthur Hull Hayes. First action this guy takes as the new boss is to okay Aspartame for use for all non-soft drinks, and one month later, that last thing he does (he only lasted a month before getting booted for taking corporate “gifts”) is to okay it for soft drinks.
Meanwhile, tests on stevia find that not only is it not in any way harmful, but that it can be linked to increased renal health and lowered rates of breast cancer. However, since it’s both a plant that cannot be patented and is way cheaper to produce than any of our current artificial sweeteners, the only possible option was to never allow it to get to market. So the FDA disallowed any use of the word “sweet” in conjunction with stevia. It can be sold as a “dietary supplement,” but if the packaging says “sweet,” “sweetener,” or is in any way associated with “tea,” then the product suddenly becomes “adulterated” and unfit for human consumption.
Ain’t that a kick in the shorts?
P.S. A more full accounting of these events can be found here. For more about stevia in general, got to . And BTW, since I’m not selling it or making a dime from it… stevia is a sweetener! Stevia is a sweetener! Stevia is great in tea! I hope Monsanto burns to the ground! Nyah, nyah, nyah-nyah, nyah!