The US FDA has indicated that they expect to soon be petitioned for an approval for the sweetener derived from the plant Stevia. This will be good news for the world over, because so much of what the FDA does affects other nations. Approval in Europe, if granted in the USA (or vice-versa) would likely follow.
As reported here in Sham vs. Wham earlier, Coca-Cola and other very large companies have been working with Stevia and in fact have submitted a number of patents regarding the processing of the sweetener, derived from the plant Stevia rebaudiana, to remove its somewhat unfortunate aftertaste. Anyone who has tried a variety of over-the-counter Stevia products knows that there are as many different qualities of this product as there are brands . . . Some of them taste really bad. (We recently tried a bargain bottle of Trader Joe's powdered "Super Stevia Extract" and found it was impossible to control the consistency of the sweetness, and it had a very unpleasant aftertaste.) At this time, the sweetener is sold as a dietary supplement only. Approval as a sweetener would have the product showing up in a number of foods.
Stevia is said to have up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar. Its taste has a slower onset and longer duration than that of sugar. Today, new research seems to indicate that there is also a great deal of antioxidant in the plant as well. (An extract from Stevia rebaudiana leaves was found to contain an abundance of antioxidant polyphenols, including quercitrin, apigenin, and kaempferol. Subsequent tests showed that the extract could protect against DNA strand scission by hydroxide radicals, states the report in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.)
This is one herbal product that is really on a roll. Once approval hits, we'll see Stevia everywhere. I wonder how companies producing products like NutraSweet and Splenda feel about this business-killing potential!