Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign

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.

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36 thoughts on “Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign

  1. I really like this take on the theme CG :). I am surprised you weren’t able to find stevia in Norway. They sell it here in pots even, and I buy it in a powder form in pharmacies. It is healthy, sweet and very economical.

    • I’ve only found it online where the price is about 1,5$ (US Dollar) per gram. I haven’t seen it on shops around here.
      The sugar industry is strong in Norway, we even had a prime minister that used to work for them. Since 1981 sugar has been taxed and currently there’s a 1.20$ tax per kilo on sugar, so the government doesn’t want people to quit sugar (just like they don’t really want people to stop smoking, because of the heavy taxation on tobacco).

      • That sucks!!!! I hope you will find stevy somewhere. It takes some getting used to its sweetness. I have been using it for several years now.

  2. Yow, aspartame! You really want to stay away from that stuff as it has nasty side effects in the long run… We have all kinds of stevia products here but you might also want to try agave as a sugar substitute. Great packaging by the way!

    • I know! If it’s aspartame it goes straight to the bin!

      I did some research and found that the producer (I didn’t google it, I duckduckgoed it) Ajinomoto, is «the world’s largest manufacturer of aspartame, sold under the trade name Aminosweet. It acquired its aspartame business in 2000 from Monsanto for $67M».

      So I guess this mysterious bag, that we at first believed to be stevia, is actually a bag full of poison.

      Seeing how Ajinomoto has relations to Monsanto, doesn’t make the case stink any less…

  3. I have a friend that swears by it and it is sold many places here. wonder is you could run it through Google image recognizer? It looks like jelly- great pic for the challenge! Keep us posted- I am curious-did you open the bag? Good luck!

  4. I don’t know exactly what is it in the package. All I know is in Indonesia many of us used to liked to consume MSG under Ajinomoto brand. So Ajinomoto is identical with MSG for us. And I think now the govt has already banned the MSG that produced by Ajinomoto.

    But once again I don’t know what is in the package of your image since I do not know Japanese language neither their characters. 🙂

    Great photo choice for this week theme of WPC. 🙂

    • Thanks Inge. Interesting to hear about the MSG. Is MSG banned in Indonesia, or just the specific Ajinomoto brand?

      «In early 2001, Ajinomoto was involved in a scandal in majority-Muslim Indonesia when it emerged that a pork-based enzyme had been used in its production of MSG» – Wikipedia

      • You are very most welcome, Cardinal. 🙂

        It is right what it’s written in Wikipedia and I think ever since that the govt has banned MSG to be used in any food products including Ajinomoto brand for obvious. 🙂

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  6. I just responded to your comment that you posted, but jut in case anyone else is wondering, it’s aspartame. Can you not get Stevia over there?

  7. After reading your comments, I asked my husband again. The package says its made from amino acids. Does that make it healthier? I’m not sure because I alm

    • I haven’t seen it there, but if I do find it, it’ll definitely be expensive. The price online (in Norwegian online shops) is about 1,5$ (US Dollar) per gram, and it’s normally cheaper to buy things through the internet than in the shops. Guess I’ll have to buy it in Sweden instead…

  8. Stevia was last year allow used in food and drinks in Denmark as sweetner, but the rest of the plant it isn’t allowed to be in Denmark… 🙂

    • I don’t know the exact rules here, but if it’s legal in the European Union, Norway will have to oblige (we’re not a democracy anymore and other nations/international treaties make the rules here).

      Probably we have the same rules as in Denmark.

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  12. Aspartame makes both my bf and I quite sick quite fast 😦 that’s why we don’t even need studies to tell us it’s bad for us, our bodies tell us. I haven’t tried Stevia. I have a coworker who swears by it but one of my best friends tried it and she said it had a strange metallic taste which she found strange because it’s supposed to be natural. I can eat saccharine without getting sick but I try to avoid it because it makes me nervous eating artificial sweeteners, especially saccharine after reading 1984 😉 lol! We just use sugar, usually demerarra if we can and use less of it or just don’t consume it, I mean you don’t need to eat sugar right? But if a recipe calls for sugar we just use real sugar, I don’t add it to anything though.. it’s interesting stuff.

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