ADI and steviol equivalents

Steviol glycosides are suitable for a variety of foods. They can be used in everything from ice cream and breakfast cereals to fruit preparations and different types of drinks. But there are limitations regarding dosage. You have to take into account the Accepted Daily Intake (ADI) and something called steviol equivalents. Does it sound messy? We're sorting it out.

18 May 2020 • and

So you want sweet with ste­via? Great! But do you know that there are lim­its to how much you can use in dif­fer­ent foods? These lim­its are indi­cat­ed by ste­vi­ol equiv­a­lents. Do you know what it is? Join us as we explore these mys­ter­ies together.

Steviol glycosides

Reb A on the left con­sists of ste­vi­ol linked to four glu­cose moi­eties. Reb M on the right con­sists of ste­vi­ol linked to six glu­cose moi­eties. Source: PubChem.

Initially, it is not the plant ste­via but the sweet sub­stances extract­ed from the plant that can be used. (The only excep­tion is tea, herbal tea or fruit infu­sion. In these, ste­via may be used directly.)

The sweet sub­stances found in ste­via are called ste­vi­ol gly­co­sides. There are 11 approved pieces with­in the EU. The most com­mon­ly used are Reb A and Reb M (Reb is an abbre­vi­a­tion of Rebaudioside).

Like a Christmas tree

Steviol gly­co­sides can be likened to a Christmas tree. The tree con­sists of a sub­stance called ste­vi­ol. Steviol is found in all ste­vi­ol gly­co­sides. Then we have glu­cose mol­e­cules that are linked to ste­vi­ol. In our metaphor, we can regard them as bulbs hang­ing in the ste­vi­ol tree. And the string in which they hang is called gly­co­side bonds. In this arti­cle, you can read more about gly­co­side bonds. The more bulbs that hang in the Christmas tree, the sweet­er it is. The same goes for ste­vi­ol glycosides.

EU regulation

Although glu­cose is a form of sug­ar, the body does not absorb any ener­gy from ste­vi­ol gly­co­sides, thus not increase blood sug­ar lev­els. This is because the body lacks the right scis­sors (enzyme) to cut the line between the glu­cose parts and the ste­vi­ol part (the gly­co­side bond).

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) does not take any risks. Although indige­nous peo­ples in South America have used ste­via for cen­turies and ste­vi­ol gly­co­sides have been used in food and drink since the 1970s in Japan, with­in the EU it has been delayed until 2011 to approve ste­vi­ol gly­co­sides. And then only in cer­tain foods and cer­tain quantities.

The amounts are stat­ed as accept­able dai­ly intake (ADI) of ste­vi­ol equivalents.

Foods NameMaximum lev­el (mg/​l or mg/​kg as appropriate) restrictions/​exception
Flavoured fer­ment­ed milk prod­ucts includ­ing heat treat­ed products 100 only ener­gy-reduced prod­ucts or with no added sugar
Edible ices 200 only ener­gy-reduced or with no added sugar
Fruit and veg­eta­bles in vine­gar, oil, or brine 100 only sweet-sour pre­serves of fruit and vegetables
Fruit and veg­etable prepa­ra­tions exclud­ing compote 200 only ener­gy-reduced
Extra jam and extra jel­ly as defined by Directive 2001/​113/​EC 200 only ener­gy-reduced jams jel­lies and marmalades
Jam, jel­lies and mar­malades and sweet­ened chest­nut puree as defined by Directive 2001/​113/​EC 200 only ener­gy-reduced jams, jel­lies and marmalades
Other sim­i­lar fruit or veg­etable spreads 200 only dried-fruit-based sand­wich spreads, ener­gy-reduced or with no added sugar
Cocoa and Chocolate prod­ucts as cov­ered by Directive 2000/​36/​EC 270 only ener­gy-reduced or with no added sugars
Other con­fec­tionery includ­ing breath refresh­en­ing microsweets 270 only cocoa or dried fruit based, ener­gy reduced or with no added sugar
Other con­fec­tionery includ­ing breath refresh­en­ing microsweets 330 only cocoa, milk, dried fruit or fat based sand­wich spreads, ener­gy-reduced or with no added sugar
Other con­fec­tionery includ­ing breath refresh­en­ing microsweets 350 only con­fec­tionary with no added sugar
Other con­fec­tionery includ­ing breath refresh­en­ing microsweets 2000 only breath-fresh­en­ing micro-sweets, with no added sugar
Other con­fec­tionery includ­ing breath refresh­en­ing microsweets 670 only strong­ly flavoured fresh­en­ing throat pastilles with no added sugar
Chewing gum 3300 only with no added sugar
Decorations, coat­ings and fill­ings, except fruit based fill­ings cov­ered by cat­e­go­ry 4.2.4 330 only con­fec­tionary with no added sugar
Decorations, coat­ings and fill­ings, except fruit based fill­ings cov­ered by cat­e­go­ry 4.2.4 270 only cocoa or dried fruit based, ener­gy reduced or with no added sugar
Breakfast cere­als 330 only break­fast cere­als with a fibre con­tent of more than 15 %, and con­tain­ing at least 20 % bran, ener­gy reduced or with no added sugar
Fine bak­ery wares 330 only essoblat­en - wafer paper
Processed fish and fish­ery prod­ucts includ­ing mol­luscs and crustaceans 200 only sweet-sour pre­serves and semi pre­serves of fish and mari­nades of fish, crus­taceans and molluscs
Table Top Sweeteners in liq­uid form QS
Table Top Sweeteners in pow­der form QS
Table Top Sweeteners in tablets QS
Soups and broths 40 only ener­gy-reduced soups
Sauces 120 except soy-bean sauce (fer­ment­ed and non-fermented)
Sauces 175 only soy-bean sauce (fer­ment­ed and non-fermented)
Dietary foods for spe­cial med­ical pur­pos­es defined in Directive 1999/​21/​EC (exclud­ing prod­ucts from food cat­e­go­ry 13.1.5) 330
Dietary foods for weight con­trol diets intend­ed to replace total dai­ly food intake or an indi­vid­ual meal (the whole or part of the total dai­ly diet) 270
Fruit nec­tars as defined by Council Directive 2001/​112/​EC and veg­etable nec­tars and sim­i­lar products 100 only ener­gy-reduced or with no added sugar
Flavoured drinks 80 only ener­gy reduced or with no added sugar
Beer and malt beverages 70 only alco­hol-free beer or with an alco­hol con­tent not exceed­ing 1,2 % vol.; ‘Bière de table/​Tafelbier/​Table beer’ (orig­i­nal wort con­tent less than 6 %) except for ‘Obergäriges Einfachbier’; beers with a min­i­mum acid­i­ty of 30 mil­liequiv­a­lents expressed as NaOH; Brown beers of the ‘oud bru­in’ type
Other alco­holic drinks includ­ing spir­its with less than 15 % of alco­hol and mix­tures of alco­holic drinks with non-alco­holic drinks 150
Potato-, cere­al-, flour- or starch-based snacks 20
Processed nuts 20
Desserts exclud­ing prod­ucts cov­ered in cat­e­go­ry 1, 3 and 4 100 only ener­gy-reduced or with no added sugar
Food sup­ple­ments sup­plied in a sol­id form includ­ing cap­sules and tablets and sim­i­lar forms 670
Food sup­ple­ments sup­plied in a liq­uid form 200
Food sup­ple­ments sup­plied in a syrup-type or chew­able form 1800


What are steviol equivalents?

But what are ste­vi­ol equiv­a­lents, you might wonder.

All of the ste­vi­ol gly­co­sides have dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter­is­tics, but they do have one thing in com­mon. They have one and only one ste­vi­ol part. In con­trast, the num­ber of glu­cose por­tions varies, thus also the weight of the ste­vi­ol gly­co­side mol­e­cule. The more glu­cose parts, the heav­ier it is.

it is not, how­ev­er, pos­si­ble to buy 100 per cent pure Reb A, Reb M and so on. What is avail­able is ste­via extract which con­sists of a mix­ture of var­i­ous ste­vi­ol gly­co­sides, where only one of them is found in a giv­en pro­por­tion (or more). For exam­ple, our ste­via extracts con­tain 50, 60, 80, 97 or 98 per cent Reb A or Reb M while the rest of the con­tent is oth­er ste­vi­ol glycosides.

Conversion factor

Because each ste­via extract has its own unique mix of ste­vi­ol gly­co­sides and dif­fer­ent ste­vi­ol gly­co­sides weigh very dif­fer­ent­ly, it is impos­si­ble for EFSA to set an ADI expressed in grams per kilo­gram of body weight. Instead, the con­cept of ste­vi­ol equiv­a­lents has been invented.

What EFSA wants to lim­it is the num­ber of mol­e­cules of ste­vi­ol gly­co­sides you get dur­ing a day. Since there is exact­ly one ste­vi­ol in each ste­vi­ol gly­co­side mol­e­cule, ADI can be expressed as the num­ber of ste­vi­o­ls. It is this num­ber that is the ste­vi­ol equivalent.

Pure ste­vi­ol (which is not a ste­vi­ol gly­co­side and thus must not be used) has the ste­vi­ol equiv­a­lent 1.

Each ste­vi­ol gly­co­side has a con­ver­sion fac­tor which is mul­ti­plied by the amount of ste­vi­ol gly­co­side used. In this way, we get the weight of ste­vi­ol, which is the sub­stance that is found in all ste­vi­ol gly­co­sides and for which there is a max­i­mum intake.

The Supplier’s responsibility

Reb A con­sist­ing of a ste­vi­ol equiv­a­lent has a con­ver­sion fac­tor of 0.33, which is the ste­vi­ol portion’s share of the entire mol­e­cule weight. Similarly, the ste­vi­ol equiv­a­lence can be cal­cu­lat­ed for each of the 11 approved ste­vi­ol gly­co­sides by divid­ing the mol­e­c­u­lar weight of ste­vi­ol by the weight of the ste­vi­ol glycoside.

But as a user of ste­vi­ol gly­co­sides in your prod­uct, you don’t have to count on these things your­self. The sup­pli­er of the ste­vi­ol gly­co­side should have done this for you. Download some prod­uct sheets for our ste­via extracts and you will see that we spec­i­fy the ste­vi­ol equiv­a­lence and that it varies with dif­fer­ent extracts. In an extract con­sist­ing of var­i­ous ste­vi­ol gly­co­sides, the sup­pli­er has sum­ma­rized the con­ver­sion fac­tors for the ste­vi­ol gly­co­sides con­tained in the extract.

Be on the safe side

But you won’t be get­ting rid of the math alto­geth­er. If you plan to replace sweet­ness from sug­ar with ste­via extract, you must count on how many ste­vi­ol equiv­a­lents you get in your prod­uct and ensure that it does not exceed ADI.

Jam with stevia

We can take Navia 97 as an exam­ple. Suppose we should use this kind in a jam appli­ca­tion. One Kilo of jam con­tains about 400 grams of sug­ar. We must, there­fore, have the same amount of sweet­ness from the ste­vi­ol gly­co­sides. This means that we need up to 2 grams of ste­via extract. 1 gram of Navia has the ste­vi­ol equiv­a­lent of 327 mg. We already know that we are well above the lim­it as the ste­vi­ol equiv­a­lent for jam goes at 200 grams.

More challenges

In fact, it is not pos­si­ble to com­plete­ly replace the sweet­ness of sug­ar, only with the help of ste­via. At least not if we talk about jams. The ste­vi­ol equiv­a­lent is exceed­ed no mat­ter which extract you choose. In addi­tion, you have oth­er chal­lenges to address; how should the jam get bulk? It will not get it from ste­via. One solu­tion is to use fibre and sug­ar alco­hols to ful­ly replace the prop­er­ties of sug­ar. Preferably a sug­ar alco­hol with a good taste and high sweet­ness such as malti­tol.

Expensive and difficult

Does this mean that ste­via is for­got­ten? No, not at all. At the begin­ning of the arti­cle, we thought about ste­via as a Christmas tree where glu­cose mol­e­cules are bulbs hang­ing in the branch­es. If we con­sid­er sug­ar reduc­tion as a Christmas tree, ste­via is the star at the top of the tree. An amaz­ing ingre­di­ent that adds extra sweet­ness need­ed for your jam to reach new heights.

It sounds pret­ty good, doesn’t it?. The prob­lem is that it is dif­fi­cult. There are a pletho­ra of dif­fer­ent ingre­di­ents to com­bine with ste­via. And then there is the devel­op­ment work, with many pit­falls and poten­tial fail­ures. It is also expen­sive – both finan­cial­ly and in terms of resources.

There is a solution

But there is a solu­tion. And it is called sweet­ened fibre and is sold under the name of Eureba.

Eureba is avail­able in dif­fer­ent vari­eties adapt­ed to dif­fer­ent types of food. In jam, you should use Eureba D01. For oth­er types of food, there are oth­er vari­eties. Do not hes­i­tate to get in touch with us. We help you all the way.

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