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Jun 11, 2007 11:04 AM

Who's responsibility was this?

Dinner last night at a friend's house. We all brought a dish over. One guest brought a pitcher of sweet tea. It tasted a bit odd but I assumed that I just didn't like whatever artificial sweetener must have been in it and I moved on to other beverages. The woman who brought the tea didn't say anything until the end of the evening. Then she began telling us all about this wonderful natural sweetener called stevia that she used in the tea and how difficult it us to get, how little you have to use, etc.

I looked it up this morning and got pretty scared, pretty fast. It seems that it's been banned for use as a food additive (rightly or wrongly seems to be a matter of debate, but still...) in the US and the EU. It's approved as a "dietary supplement." That part was only annoying, not so scary.

What scared me is the fact that there are numerous warnings against using this sweetener if you are taking calcium channel blockers for hypertension - which the Spouse is. It seems that stevia is being researched for its medical use in combating hypertension but if you're already taking these medications consuming stevia can send your blood pressure dangerously low.

Fortunately the Spouse didn't drink much of the tea since he didn't care for the taste, either. However, I feel we got away very lucky.

Should the provider of the tea been responsible to warn us off? I'm assuming she didn't even know there was a possible interaction but since the additive isn't FDA approved, should one assume there's a good reason for that? The Spouse couldn't have known to avoid the tea since A) we didn't know it was in there and B) it wouldn't be listed in known interactions for the meds since stevia is not commercially used here.

What is anyone's (mine, the Spouse, the food provider, the host, etc.) responsibility in a situation like this?

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  1. Well, the fact is it is the responsibilty for anyone who has a dietary concern to ask what is in something and then take the risk or not.

    Many foods can have strong interactions with medications. Not dietary supplements, just plain normal unadulterated food.

    Here's a brief link:

    10 Replies
    1. re: lebelage

      I tend to agree...but this is a pretty out there scenario. If you show up with something as seemingly as innocuous as tea and put something entirely unusual in should say something. This isn't like a peanut allergy where you have to approach things with the presumption that nuts and nut oils are in everything until you know otherwise: this is a rare "ingredient" in something that no one would have reason to think anything odd was in.

      So, in this case, I think some responsibility rests with both...but more so with the person who brought the tea. If you're going to do something really odd...say something about it before everyone starts eating or drinking.

      1. re: ccbweb

        I agree also.
        But she should have left the tea plain, imho.
        Whenever I offer tea, hot or iced, to my guests, I leave it plain and offer an assortment of sweeteners, both natural and artificial, for them to choose from. I would never assume that they want it sweetened.

        1. re: foodstorm

          oooo- that's such a "where you're from" thing.

          in canada iced tea is sweet. (speaking generally of course)

          1. re: excuse me miss

            Yeah...and, with iced tea, you just can't effectively sweeten it after the fact. I have no problem with sweet tea being offered...but if you're using a non-standard ingredient, mention it before you serve it.

            1. re: excuse me miss

              Really, even if you are serving people you know have "issues" (diabetes, dieting, etc.)? Where I live, bikini season is upon us and nearly everyone is dieting and serving anything sweetened with sugar would get me dirty looks, lol! But there are some people who can't abide the taste of artificial sweeteners either. So you see why I just leave it be and let them choose for themselves...

              1. re: foodstorm

                what i mean is- most if not all iced tea in canada is sweet- it's not "normal" for us to sweeten our own with whatever choice. so it might not occur to someone making it to not sweeten it. very few restaurants offer unsweetened.

                if you buy iced tea in the us- like at the corner store- is there unsweetened??

                1. re: excuse me miss

                  Yes. And most restaurants throughout the US serve unsweetened iced tea. However, most restaurants (from fast food to mid range) in the Southern states offer sweet tea as well.

                  1. re: mojoeater

                    such an interesting little cultural difference.

                    1. re: mojoeater

                      In the South tea sweetened with sugar is pretty much the standard. At most restaurants (especially the mom & pop places) if you just order "iced tea" you will get sweet tea. If you want unsweetened tea you have to specify that.

                      1. re: Sister Sue

                        I thought it was unusual to have sweetened iced tea until reading this post and realizing its common in the South. If I asked for sweet iced tea in NJ I would get Snapple.

        2. Personally, if I'm gonna be a guinea pig , I wanna know about it. I feel the provider of the tea should have provided some sort of caveat.
          Kinda like bringing Alice B. Toklas brownies, or making some of George Kastanza's scrambled eggs!!
          I think I would call the host/hostess and make sure they knew all the facts and then they could advise the "tea person"...I bet that this person never even gave this circumstance a thought..

          1. I think the responsibility is shared between all parties but mostly the food provider and the person who has the medical issue (knowledge is power and all of that). I think it was very poor judgement on the part of the food provider to make an item with a controversial ingredient and not mention it. I think the host is the least responsible along with the spouse of the person with the medical issue.

            1. I think experimenting at home (non social situation) with stuff like this is fine but never in a group and certainly not without letting everybody know ahead of time.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Velma

                The problem is that the FDA is very ambiguous about the status of Stevia. It is still sold in grocery stores in the artificial sweetner area and the many items that use it carry no warnings. Some restaurants even put packets of Stevia with the other sweetners in their coffee/tea set ups. In fact I once had it at one of my restaurants but told the owner we needed to stop because there was growing (but not well publicised) concern.

                So really no one would have anyway of knowing that they were experimenting on guests unless they follow food additive news as I do because it is my job. The woman who made it probably thought is was the same as adding Equal or Splenda (but more expensive and less available)- except Stevia is an all natural product whereas the others are artifical. Most people would reasonably expect that it would be safe to use an all natural ingredient that they can purchase at a grocery store in food they are going to serve to others.

                It WAS approved at a food for many years- when its status changed that change was not highly publicized. It has been in wide use and widely available since the early '90s.
                There are websites all over the internet of recipies using Stevia. So there is no reason to believe that the woman who made the tea was "experimenting on you" anymore than when people made cooking with Splenda when it was first released.

                I think my point remains: if you are on medication it is your responsibilty to get a list of interactive ingredients/substances from your doctor and then make sure you don't consume them.


              2. but if she HAD told you it was stevia at the beginning- you still didn't know then what you know now about it.

                as far as i know it takes years before FDA approves things- and it doesn't necessarily mean something is harmful or bad.