A.B.A. stance on fiber definition to be applauded

by Laurie Gorton
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The new definition of dietary fiber throws a monkey wrench into the baking industry’s ability to claim healthy content for its products.

Bravo to the American Bakers Association for standing up to the Food and Drug Administration on the agency’s new — and highly problematic — definition of dietary fiber. Promulgated with the recent update of the Nutrition Facts Panel, the definition throws a monkey wrench into the baking industry’s ability to claim healthy content for its products.

While acknowledging that many common bakery ingredients (flour, whole grains, etc.) are sources for what the definition terms “intrinsic and intact” dietary fiber, it names only seven fiber additives as approved “isolated or synthetic” sources. (And two of those, the A.B.A. pointed out, really should be in the first category.) More than two dozen commonly used fiber additives are left in limbo. This new definition has a compliance date of July 26, 2018.

A letter sent to the F.D.A. on Feb. 13 by Lee Sanders, A.B.A.’s senior vice-president of government relations and public affairs, described big holes in the definition and how it applies to this macronutrient. Ms. Sanders described in detail the unintended consequences that may occur. Noting that the F.D.A. Commissioner has authority to grant a stay in any of the agency’s proceedings, the A.B.A. rightly calls for the agency to rescind this definition, rework it in a way less burdensome to those who want to fortify their foods with dietary fiber and provide better timing and communications on this matter.

Declaration of dietary fiber content remains voluntary, but it also needs to remain an achievable option for baking industry formulators and marketers. Dietary fiber enhancement is a natural fit for baked foods, a true benefit for American consumers who still eat far less than what experts — and F.D.A. — recommend. 

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