KAL Brand Pure Stevia Extract Powder Made in China, Includes Maltodextrin
It appears that the KAL brand has changed their pure stevia extract formula. It now includes maltodextrin as a flow agent, and it is produced in China! Through my investigation, I have learned that nearly all stevia products are grown and processed in China. If anybody knows of a brand NOT grown and processed in China, please let me know.
One of our HeS friends contacted KAL Brand and here’s what they told her:
“They claimed maltodextrin has always been in their product and that nothing has changed as far as how they make it, they just haven’t always put it on the label (she didn’t know why that was [this to me is more egregious than having added it to their product]). I asked if it was used for filler and she answered with a definite “no,” and said it’s added for texture and consistency. When I asked if the amount would be reflected in the carb count, she said the amount is negligible – only half of a percent of the total volume (so apparently it wouldn’t show up as having any carbs). I guess on the positive side, at least they have to put it on their label, but how disappointing! I love that brand.”
Maltodextrin is high-glycemic and it is made from corn, most likely not organic corn. This is unfortunate indeed. It may be a minute amount, but if there is a better brand without it we’d rather us that.
We will be changing our recipes to reflect using a certified organic brand of pure stevia extract powder with no added “Other Ingredients.”
One such brand is the NOW brand called Better Stevia. Here is a link to it: http://www.nowfoods.com/BetterStevia-Extract-Powder-1lb.htm which is available on amazon.com in several sizes. You can read about their extraction process by clicking here. However, according to the reply I received from my inquiry it too is grown and processed in China. Also, It contains “no less than 80% Glucosylsteviosides”, which is quite low compared to other brands. Here is what Now Brand says:
“Our pure Better Stevia extract is organically grown and processed in China under stringent quality control parameters. It contains no other ingredients.”
Interestingly, a different and more extensive reply was provided from a NOW Foods nutritionist in their Nutrition & Science Department to the question, “In which country is your certified organic Better Stevia extract powder produced?” I post the response here in its entirety (underline emphasis is mine):
“It is China sourced.
“We purchase the best raw materials from all over the world and use these here in our Bloomingdale, IL facility to produce our products. With almost two thousand products only a small percentage of our items come from China and are subject to the same quality checks as any other country.
“Most of our ingredients are grown and processed in the U.S. The most important considerations are that our ingredients are safe, meet specifications, and are not adulterated. Although today the focus is on specific ingredients from China, problems can arise even with U.S. produced ingredients. The issue is thus not the country of origin, but the safety, quality and integrity of the entire supply. Bad ingredients can and do come from anywhere. The only sure solution is to have a strict program in place to test ingredients before they are used in foods and supplements.
“At NOW Foods we have in-house state-of-the-art chemical and microbiology testing facilities. We are on top of ingredient issues facing our industry and focus our testing on those issues in addition to the day-to-day product testing required by our GMP certification. Our testing is based on USP, AOAC, and other official or published methods. To test for Melamine for example we use a FCC HPLC or FDA GC Developmental Melamine Quantification method. We audit our suppliers, which includes visiting facilities where ingredients are processed to examine the protocols for ensuring safety and quality. We are founding members of the Natural Products Association-China, a new organization that is in the process of setting up a testing facility in China, so that we can test and certify ingredients before they are shipped to the U.S.
“We take our food supply chain seriously and have programs in place to anticipate and guard against ingredient problems. We have invested millions of dollars in equipment, capabilities and technical and professional expertise. We do our best to ensure you get the safest products possible.”
This raises a few questions that are probably for a different subject. Who determines the safety of a product? Does self-monitoring really work, or is it like the fox guarding the hen house? In any case, I was impressed with their answer and it appears that even though China is still the source of the stevia, they have quality and safety checks in place. The certified organic designation, while not a guarantee, does offer some consolation as well.
Another brand, which is not certified organic, but is at least pure stevia extract powder with no added “Other Ingredients” is NutraBulk. It can be purchased at NutraBulk.com. As the name implies, this is a bulk purchase so the amount is much larger than the typical containers of pure stevia extract powder. It contains 92% steviosides derived naturally from the stevia rebaudiana plant. Remaining material is stevia organic material. However, if you are set against using a product produced in China, this is what they said:
“There is no maltodextrin added. Nothing is added to the raw material during assembly… we do not blend anything with our stevia. Our stevia is produced in China from a leading manufacturer with a stellar reputation. We test it both pre and post assembly at a cGMP-certified facility in Los Angeles to make sure it conforms to the Certificate of Analysis in regards to both purity and lack of contaminants. I would question any seller that states their SOURCE of Stevia is somewhere other than China. They are far and away the leading producer of stevia and I’m not aware of any USA based manufacturing facility producing Stevia from raw materials. Quality in China with the leading, reputable companies is dramatically better since executing their FDA director 7-8 years ago.”
SweetLeaf Organic Stevia Extract employs a process of extraction that uses only pure water to collect the finest, sweetest parts of the stevia plant. Other companies use chemicals, alcohols or even enzymes that actually change the make-up of the naturally occurring substances. This is indeed the case with the NOW brand Better Stevia extract. Here is what they say on their web site about where they get their stevia:
SweetLeaf Stevia “is responsibly sourced from indigenous fields in South America and other areas around the globe. Stevia is cultivated primarily in China, but the leaves of SweetLeaf Stevia come only from South America. There are other growers scattered across the Pacific Rim. Stevia is also being cultivated in Canada, Israel, Africa, Japan and China.”
I emailed Sweetleaf to ask the following questions:
- Can you please tell me the concentration of steviosides in your Organic Stevia Extract?
- Can you confirm that there are no other ingredients in the organic stevia extract?
- Finally, you say:
“Stevia is cultivated primarily in China, but the leaves of SweetLeaf Sweetener® come only from South America. There are other growers scattered across the Pacific Rim. Stevia is also being cultivated in Canada, Israel, Africa, Japan and China.”
Does this mean your stevia is grown only in South America but processed and the glycosides extracted somewhere else? If so, where is SweetLeaf stevia processed into the end product?
They never replied to my repeated email requests…not good customer service. While I cannot confirm a response to my questions above, I have a reasonable degree of confidence the answers will be positive. (perhaps somebody out there already knows the answers and would like to share?)
Update: As of November, 2015, Sweetleaf admits that ALL of their organic stevia is grown in China.This is disappointing.
Another popular brand is NuNaturals and they have two products called NuStevia White Stevia Pure Extract Powder and NuStevia Reb99 Pure Extract Powder. Neither of these are ideal. The First contains maltodextrin as a flow agent and the latter contains secret “natural flavors” which they will not disclose. Another HeS friend contacted them and this is what she discovered:
“I talked with someone at NuNaturals and asked about the purity of all their Stevia products. They said they do have 2 products that are pure Stevia, nothing else added – NuStevia Reb99 Premium Natural Sweetener and NuStevia White Stevia Pure Extract Powder, however, those particular products (that don’t have anything added) are only sold in 1 pound quantities, so they are expensive up front. He did tell me that NuStevia White Stevia Extract Powder (1 oz size) does have a “green plant” extract that adds to the sweetness (or something like that).”
I would steer clear of the NuNaturals brand if you are after pristine stevia with no additives.
Update: We found a new (to us) brand of pure stevia extract powder that appears to be among the best we have discovered so far. It is Mood and Mind brand pure stevia extract powder. It is 100% pure and certified organic.
I wrote them and asked them: Can you please tell me where you source your stevia? Is it China, South America or elsewhere? Also, is it processed at your source or here in the US? They replied within minutes (Great customer service!):
“Our stevia is grown in Peru and processed in China.We are glad you like our stevia and thank you so much for your order!”
I also asked about their extraction process, and here was their reply – again within minutes:
“Our stevia is produced using water extraction from the dried leaves, followed by clarification & crystallization processes & finally purification using ion-exchange resins.”
I am not sure of the composition of the resins, but being heat-extracted is much better (in my opinion) than being alcohol- or solvent-extracted. It is great that it is grown in Peru, but not as great that it is processed in China. However, the fact that it is certified organic means the oversight, even in China, is supposedly at a higher standard. It has to be so in order to display the USDA Organic symbol. All in all, it appears to be a good quality brand with no additives or fillers.
If you use Better Stevia by NOW, you will have to adjust the stevia amounts in the recipes our recipe e-books because they are based on the purer KAL brand of stevia extract powder which has a higher concentration of steviosides. If you use Mood and Mind Brand Organic Pure Stevia Extract Powder, our experience is that it is quite close to the sweetness of the KAL brand and less bitter than most others.
This is a good example of why it is important to read food labels, even for products you have purchased many times. Manufacturers can change their product formulas at any time and without warning. It also goes to show that food labels are not always accurate, so it is good always to check blood sugars before and after trying a new food or ingredient. You may have to go beyond the label and contact the manufacturer.
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