The Weekly Photo Challenge theme this week is «Foreign» and it’s a perfect theme for me this week: The theme and the timing couldn’t have been better!
A few days ago, my uncle returned from a trip to Japan. Before he went we asked him to bring us some stevia. An easy task? Not necessarily. Because of the language barrier he had some difficulties explaining in the shop what he was actually looking for, but he came back with whatever it is that you see on this photo (which is hopefully Stevia…)

My uncle said that he wasn’t sure what this was, so now I’m asking you bloggers for help. I tried to find some information online and to me it seems like this might be an artificial sweetener called aspartame and not stevia? Perhaps some of you know Japanese and can confirm that this is (or isn’t) stevia?

Stevia...? Or something else? I have no idea...
Stevia? Aspartame? Something else? I have no idea: it’s all foreign to me…

Shortly explained stevia is a substitute for sugar. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it:

Stevia (/ˈstiːvɪə/, /ˈstiːvjə/ or /ˈstɛvɪə/) is a genus of about 240 species of herbs and shrubs in the sunflower family (Asteraceae), native to subtropical and tropical regions from western North America to South America. The species Stevia rebaudiana, commonly known as sweetleaf, sweet leaf, sugarleaf, or simply stevia, is widely grown for its sweet leaves. As a sweetener and sugar substitute, stevia’s taste has a slower onset and longer duration than that of sugar, although some of its extracts may have a bitter or licorice-like aftertaste at high concentrations.

And aspartame?
Aspartame (APM; /ˈæspərteɪm/ or /əˈspɑrteɪm/) is an artificial, non-saccharide sweetener used as a sugar substitute in some foods and beverages. In the European Union, it is codified as E951. Aspartame is a methyl ester of the aspartic acid/phenylalanine dipeptide. It was first sold under the brand name NutraSweet; since 2009 it also has been sold under the brand name AminoSweet. It was first synthesized in 1965 and the patent expired in 1992.
The safety of aspartame has been the subject of several political and medical controversies, congressional hearings and Internet hoaxes[3][4][5] since its initial approval for use in food products by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1974.

Check out the Weekly Photo Challenge at WordPress:
http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/10/26/weekly-photo-challenge-foreign/

Other bloggers interpretations:

http://jinancitydailyphoto.wordpress.com
http://hereandthere5.wordpress.com
http://beijingcityphoto.wordpress.com
http://smkelly8.com