International trade may factor into fiber definition

by Jeff Gelski
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ST. PAUL, MINN. — The Food and Drug Administration might look elsewhere in the world, especially Canada, as it prepares a dietary fiber definition, according to a June 27 webinar put on by AACC International. To avoid trade difficulties, an F.D.A. fiber definition might need to harmonize with other definitions.

The F.D.A. said it planned to define dietary fiber when it listed proposed changes to the Nutrition Facts Panel in the March 3 Federal Register. The AACC International webinar featured the two co-chairs of its Dietary Fiber and Other Carbohydrates Approved Methods Technical Committee. Jon DeVries, Ph.D., is senior technical manager of General Mills, Inc.’s Medallion Laboratories. Stuart Craig, Ph.D., is director of regulatory and scientific affairs at DuPont Nutrition & Health.

Dr. Craig said the F.D.A., in establishing a fiber definition, might look to work already done by Health Canada, which issued a policy for the labeling and advertising of food products containing dietary fiber in February 2012.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission, which develops harmonized international food standards, established a fiber definition in 2009, Dr. DeVries said. Codex involves 186 countries, including the United States, he said.

The Institute of Medicine has defined "dietary fiber" as non-digestible carbohydrates and lignin that are intrinsic and intact in plants, and it has defined "added fiber" as isolated, non-digestible carbohydrates that have beneficial physiological effects in humans. Under the F.D.A.’s proposed rule in the March 3 Federal Register, 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.

Health Canada in its rule lists physiological effects that are functions of dietary fiber and are acceptable as a physiological effect of novel fiber sources. They include: improves laxation or regularity by increasing stool bulk; reduces blood total and/or low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels; reduces post-grandial blood glucose and/or insulin levels; and provides energy-yielding metabolites through colonic fermentation.

Dr. Craig pointed out the list of physiological benefits from Health Canada is non-exclusive, meaning other physiological benefits may be recognized in the future. Dr. Craig said if Health Canada has approved an ingredient as fiber, industry should get a good sense as to whether the F.D.A. will approve the ingredient as dietary fiber.

Health Canada has approved all corn bran as fiber, Dr. DeVries said. He said he expects the F.D.A. will rule corn bran, along with oat bran, wheat bran and barley bran, as dietary fiber. Even though the brans are isolated, “there shouldn’t be any reason to object to them as fiber,” Dr. DeVries said. Dr. Craig said non-traditional fibers such as bamboo or sugar cane, which are isolated and extracted, might fall into a similar category as corn bran.

AACC International is putting together comments that it will submit to the F.D.A., Dr. DeVries said. The F.D.A. will accept comments on proposed changes to the Nutrition Facts Panel until Aug. 1.
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