A report on laboratory tests conducted on the fake stevia products by University Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia and University Putra Malaysia revealed the products did not contain any plant extracts, but instead had a combination of chemicals that poses health risks when consumed.
Stevia extract is a type of natural sweetener taken from the leaves of the stevia rebaudiana bertoni plant which contains steviol glycosides. It is processed into white or light yellow powder, is odourless, and used a sugar substitute. Unlike other sugar substitutes, stevia is derived from a plant and does not add calories.
“The ministry is investigating the matter to ascertain the products comply with food laws. Regulation 118A of the Food Regulations 1985, Food Act 1983, has set the standards for stevia extract products,” said Mr Abdullah.
Mr Abdullah went on to say it was an offence for anyone to import, distribute, keep or sell food that contains dangerous poisons or is harmful to the health, and this includes stevia products. He said those found guilty face a fine of not more than US$23,000 or imprisonment of up to 10 years, or both.