'Added fiber' misinformation debunked

by Laurie Gorton
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Did you hear the rumor that fiber ingredients added to foods might not qualify as dietary fiber for the revised Nutrition Facts Panel proposed earlier this year by the Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.)? Well, it’s not true — emphatically, not true.

“We are aware that misleading information around this topic erroneously appeared in the media when F.D.A. published the proposed rules for nutrition labeling,” said Joe O’Neill, president and general manager, Beneo, Inc., Morris Plains, N.J.

Here’s what happened.

The F.D.A. announced its overhaul of the Nutrition Facts Panel Feb. 27. That day, the Center for Science in the Public Interest issued a press release stating it “gave F.D.A. high marks for proposing to increase the prominence of calories and for proposing that the ‘fiber’ listed on Nutrition Facts labels excludes purified, processed fibers such as maltodextrin and inulin, which are not as beneficial as the intact, unprocessed fiber in whole foods.”

In fact, the proposal contained no such exclusion when published in full in the Federal Register of March 3.

What the new rules did, however, was repeat the F.D.A.’s earlier definition of dietary fiber that encompasses non-digestible soluble and insoluble carbohydrates with three or more monomeric units that are intrinsic and intact in plants as well as those that are isolated from raw foods by physical, enzymatic or chemical means or synthesized. Intrinsic lignin is also included.

“The proposed rule treats all fibers that are not intrinsic in plants equally, so inulin is not different in this regard,” observed Deborah Schulz, specialty carbohydrates product line manager, Cargill, Wayzata, Minn. Inulin is derived from plant roots, mainly chicory plus others.

Dietary fiber categories discussed in the F.D.A.’s proposal match fiber definitions written by the Codex Alimentarius Commission and those used by other nations.

“The rule would fill a void in the regulations by creating a definition for dietary fiber,” explained Scott Turowski, technical sales, Sensus America, Inc., Lawrenceville, N.J.

It’s also not true that added fibers are less beneficial than those naturally present. The F.D.A. rules provide food companies a way to prove the facts of the matter.

“What F.D.A. actually is proposing is that manufacturers of non-digestible carbohydrates, i.e. all types of dietary fibers, should provide scientific evidence to F.D.A. to demonstrate a beneficial physiological effect,” Mr. O’Neill said. “Upon positive review by F.D.A., these non-digestible carbohydrates will be listed by F.D.A. and be eligible for dietary fiber labeling.”

He described inulin and oligofructose, derived from chicory root, as “the most well-researched fibers worldwide.”
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