"Miracle Fruit" is A Controversial Food Ingredient — Why It's Illegal, Explained


Oct. 2 2023, Published 1:06 p.m. ET

Close-up of red miracle fruit berry
Source: iStock

The Gist:

  • Miracle fruit contains a protein called miraculin, a noncaloric natural sweetener.
  • Miraculin works by increasing the sweetness of acidic foods' taste to the eater.
  • Miracle fruit can be sold in the U.S., but miraculin isn't fully approved as a food by the FDA.
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Miracle fruit is touted for its ability to interact with a person's taste buds to increase the perception of sweetness in foods that aren't typically viewed as sweet. There's been much talk about how to use miracle fruit. Why is miracle fruit illegal? There are ways you can procure this product, but they might not be what you expect — so let's look into how you can legally get miracle fruit.

Five bright-red miracle fruit berries on a blue background
Source: iStock
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Why is miracle fruit illegal?

First, stating that miracle fruit is illegal across the board is misleading. It's allowed in many forms in many countries around the world. However, the FDA has not approved miraculin, the protein found in miracle fruit, as a sweetener or ingredient in foods, as the food blog WhatSugar explains.

According to the University of Florida IFAS Extension, miraculin can't be sold as a food or food additive without further safety assessment, although miracle fruit itself can be sold. The FDA hasn't yet approved it for GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) status in the U.S., and "The rejection of GRAS status for miraculin has become the subject of conspiracy theories and several popular press stories pitting special-interest commodity groups against miracle fruit."

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Where is miracle fruit illegal?

According to James McInness, one responder on Quora, it's illegal to sell miracle fruit as "food" in the U.S. He adds, "In the EU it is on a list of "novel foods" and requires a safety assessment in the prior to being sold as a food or food additive." McInness also says that beyond the U.S. and the European Union, it's "kind of a mish-mash of approved and unapproved for use."

Encyclopedia Britannica explains that Japan has approved miraculin for use and that in "most places," people can buy powdered or whole miracle fruit.

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Where can you buy miracle fruit?

As WhatSugar.com notes, you can buy miraculin in tablet form after it has been extracted from the fruit's pulp and freeze-dried. Each tablet will usually contain the miraculin of 3-5 berries. You can buy fresh miracle fruit berries online at retailers like Amazon. There are also several miracle fruit products like tablets and lozenges.

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Miracle fruit isn't cheap. A Richberry pack of 50 berry halves costs $32.99 on Amazon and the mBerry Miracle Berry Tablets in a 10-pack costs $16.99.

Although miracle fruit isn't a sweetener per se, it's said that you can eat the berry or take a tablet before eating acidic foods. As the University of Florida IFAS Extension explains, the interaction of miraculin with sweet taste receptors on your tongue makes you temporarily experience those acidic foods as tasting sweet.

It's also said to help chemotherapy patients enjoy the taste of food by reducing the metallic taste commonly experienced during treatment, as per Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

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