The Wall St. Journal reports this morning that Coke (KO) and Cargill are trying to get FDA approval for a new sweetner called Reninia. It comes from an herb called Stevia which is native to Paraguay. The duo currently face stiff opposition to it's as neither the European Union or the FDA have approved it and that process would most likely take several years. According to The Journal, a potentially damaging "1985 peer-reviewed study on rats published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concluded the herb could cause mutations in the liver. Some European food-safety officials have cited concerns about a lack of data on the herb's safety, amid indications it could lead to fertility problems in men.
Cargill, who admittedly has already spent "significant amounts" of money on the project is hoping the herb will "shake up" the sweetener market. Word is that coke has no plans to tamper with it's "Coke Classic" formula, learning from it's 1980's fiasco so I am left wondering if this will ever be more than just another aspertane, sucralose, saccharin niche product. Folks are very particular about their beverages and will resists any change so I am highly skeptical that it will replace or make a dent in HFCS demand anytime soon.
Perhaps the most immediate reason to be concerned about the product? The herb has become fashionable in Hollywood. On her blog, actress Mariel Hemingway has posted a recipe for a morning shake that recommends mixing in stevia for added sweetness. Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't this the same actress that suffers (or suffered) from bulimia, anorexia, and depression? So, I am supposed to put anything she recommends into my body?
This stuff looks like it will make folks long for the days when their soft drink just made them fat.