Profeco, a government agency that protects consumer rights in Mexico by applying the country’s Federal Consumer Protection Law, carried out more than 1,800 tests between April and September this year.
The Profeco researchers included 31 tabletop sweeteners that contain stevia, two in liquid form and 29 in powder format.
The results of the survey, carried out by the National Consumer Protection Laboratory and published this month, revealed that six brands added sugar to their stevia sweetener.
“[We] found tabletop sweeteners that combine stevia with sugar (sucrose), fructose or glucose (dextrose), important data for those who have restrictions on sugar consumption,” read a statement by Profeco.
The products included Sweeny’s calorie-free stevia; Great Value’s calorie-free sweetener with stevia extract; and Natural Fit’s Authentic stevia sweetener which contains polyols.
Great Value’s 300 g stevia extract contained undeclared glucose in some of the samples tested by Profeco.
Profeco's advice: Read the label
“Due to the characteristics of the products, it is recommended to read the labels, as they provide information on the nutritional content and ingredients that can help the consumer to make a better purchase decision,” the consumer watchdog added.
According to Profeco, the aim of the survey was to inform the public about the content of tabletop sweeteners available on the market, which are widely consumed in Mexico.
Mexican national news outlets reported on the results of the Profeco survey with many focusing on the potential danger for diabetes sufferers.
According to the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), diabetes mellitus is the leading cause of years of healthy life lost in Mexico, followed by ischemic cardiopathy and cerebrovascular diseases.
'Manipulating the market'
FoodNavigator-LATAM contacted the companies in question but did not receive a response in time for publication of this article.
However, a spokesperson for NaturaStevia, a Mexican stevia supplier that does not add sugar to its stevia and was not implicated in the Profeco survey, said that most stevia brands in Mexico contain sugar, dextrose, erythritol, fructose, and only 3% stevia.
“This is mainly due to two things,” the spokesperson said. “One, to lower the sweetness potential and be able to use small doses for a cup of coffee, since stevia sweetens 300 times more than sugar. Second, in order to extract the active molecules, stevioside, and rebaudioside, additional [binding agents] are needed.”
The spokesperson added that it was not reasonable for consumers to find added sugar in a tabletop stevia sweetener. "The big brands have been manipulating the market for the past 10 years."