More fiber may be required

by Jeff Gelski
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Food and beverage com-panies intent on ensuring products qualify for a nutrient content claim of a “good source” or “excellent source” of fiber may be forced to reformulate their products.

Why?

Because proposed changes to the Nutrition Facts panel made by the Food and Drug Administration on Feb. 27 say the Daily Value for fiber based on a caloric intake of 2,000 calories should be increased to 28 grams per day from 25 grams per day.

Rajen Mehta, Ph.D., senior director, Specialty Ingredients, Grain Millers, Inc. and based in Eugene, Ore., said such a change would mean qualifying for a nutrient content claim of “good source of fiber” in a product would require 2.8 grams per serving, up from 2.5 grams, and qualifying for a claim of “excellent source of fiber” would require delivery of 5.6 grams per serving, up from 5 grams.

When reformulating, a company may determine the current fiber ingredient in use is not optimum at the higher level, Dr. Mehta said. In this case, the company may decide to use another fiber ingredient because of such advantages as cost, taste, texture and physiological benefits to the consumer.

John Deininger, quality assurance manager with Didion Milling, Cambria, Wis., said, “We hope these proposed changes encourage food and beverage manufacturers to increase the amount of fiber in their products. The proposed changes could also affect the type of fiber used in products, particularly the balance between soluble and insoluble fiber. Since the Dietary Reference Value has been raised to 28 grams, manufacturers will consider the fiber sources that are available and their functional properties as they seek ways to add more fiber to the formulations.”

Particle size distribution is another factor, he said.

“Incorporating more fiber can sometimes lead to mouthfeel issues,” Mr. Deininger said. “This can be resolved by reducing the course corn fiber fraction in a given size distribution.”

In its proposed updates, the F.D.A. also said it plans to establish a definition for fiber.

The Institute of Medicine defines “total fiber” as the sum of dietary fiber and added fiber. The I.O.M. recognizes dietary fiber as non-digestible carbohydrates and lignin that are intrinsic and intact in plants, and the I.O.M. recognizes added fiber as isolated, non-digestible carbohydrates that have beneficial physiological effects in humans.

The F.D.A. is proposing a single definition for dietary fiber that is equivalent to the I.O.M.’s definition for “total fiber.”

Manufacturers would be required to provide the F.D.A. with evidence that demonstrates the physiological effects beneficial to human health of isolated and synthetic non-digestible carbohydrates added to food. The F.D.A. would have to grant a petition to authorize a health claim before they may be considered as dietary fiber for declaration on the Nutrition Facts panel.

Beta-glucan soluble fiber and barley beta-fiber that are added to foods would meet the definition and be included in the amount of dietary fiber declared on the Nutrition Facts panel.

The F.D.A. listed attenuation of postprandial blood glucose concentrations, attenuation of blood cholesterol concentrations and improved laxation as examples of physiological effects that are beneficial to human health. In addition, soluble fiber plays a beneficial role in reducing the risk of heart disease, according to the F.D.A.

Dr. Mehta said extracting fiber from a plant source may be an example of isolating, and hydrolyzing a starch fraction and enzymatically modifying it to resist digestion, thereby acting as a fiber, might be an example of synthetic.

He said it was not yet clear if, or how, intrinsic fibers and isolated or synthetic fibers may be distinguished on a food label.

Dr. Mehta said for its oat fiber, Grain Millers uses a part of the plant and thermally, in the presence of water, reduces the microbial level typically present in natural agricultural commodities while maintaining the intrinsic characteristics of the oat fiber.

Grain Millers has been able to document certain physiological benefits of its oat fiber through human clinical trials. The benefits include increased laxation and fecal bulking, Dr. Mehta said.

Todd Giesfeldt, mill R.&D. senior manager at Didion Milling, said, “Each specific type of fiber can have a different physiological effect. The ratio of soluble to insoluble plays a central role in fiber’s functionality. Corn fiber is approximately 75% insoluble and 25% soluble fiber. As such, it is a good balance of the two, while limiting the caloric value.”

Physiological benefits of insoluble fiber include blood sugar regulation, improved laxation and intestinal pH balance.

Grain Processing Corp., Muscatine, Iowa, offers TruBran corn bran, which features natural insoluble fiber and is 85% total dietary fiber. TruBran has been shown to work in snacks, cereals, baked foods, nutrition bars, beverages, supplements and other fiber-fortified foods.

Dr. Mehta said it is not yet clear how the F.D.A. will implement the approval process for isolated and synthetic fibers that have demonstrated physiological benefits.

For example, if a company gets approval of an isolated version of an insoluble oat fiber by demonstrating its physiological benefits, will the F.D.A. consider just that company’s oat fiber as approved, or include all isolated oat fibers, or even all the cellulosic fibers (including sugarcane and cellulose fiber)?

Thus the F.D.A. may adopt one of three approaches in implementing the approval for specific isolated fibers, he said.

“It’s all still very uncertain,” he said.

Manufacturers of isolated fibers should be concerned if they do not have any clinical studies showing physiological effectiveness, said Joanne Slavin, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minn.

The focus on fiber in the proposed Nutrition Facts panel changes should make foods healthier, Dr. Mehta said.

“It’s going to benefit the consumer overall,” he said.

Dr. Slavin said, “Fiber should continue to be a popular additive since it is a shortfall nutrient and linked to positive health outcomes.”

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