WASHINGTON — A representative for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration spoke positively Oct. 10 about citizen petitions related to a fiber definition at Cereals 17, the annual meeting of AACC International held in San Diego, but the agency as of mid-October had yet to rule on which isolated or synthetic non-digestible carbohydrates meet the definition.
The F.D.A. has received 12 petitions on 9 different potential fibers, said Paula R. Trumbo, Ph.D., who works within the F.D.A.’s Office of Nutrition and Food Labeling, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
“This was kind of a second round where companies or associations could comment,” she said. “The level of detail of the comments was so much greater the second time around. They really were specific.”
The F.D.A. in the May 27, 2016, edition of the Federal Register defined fiber for the first time. Ingredients may qualify as fiber if they are non-digestible carbohydrates (with three or more monomeric units) and lignin that are intrinsic and intact in plants. Isolated and synthetic non-digestible carbohydrates (with three or more monomeric units) also may qualify if they are the subject of an authorized health claim or if the F.D.A. rules in favor of a citizen petition.
The F.D.A. has said scientific evidence already supports a showing of a beneficial physiological effect to human health from the following isolated or non-synthetic non-digestible carbohydrates: psyllium husk, cellulose, guar gum, pectin, locust bean gum and hydroxypropylmethylcellulose. The F.D.A. also has included 26 isolated and synthetic non-digestible carbohydrates in a scientific literature review. The 12 citizen petitions include such ingredients as inulin, soy fiber, polydextrose and resistant starch.
“The petitions were all nicely put together in providing all the evidence that they could find for a specific end point (in regard to a beneficial physiological effect),” Dr. Trumbo said.
She said the F.D.A. will not amend its fiber definition, but it will amend the list of isolated and non-digestible carbohydrates that meet the definition. The F.D.A. will respond to all petitions whether they are approved or not. The final guidance on amending the list will come out at the same time for all the ingredients. The F.D.A. has not provided a list of non-digestible carbohydrates that are intrinsic and intact in plants and meet the fiber definition.
The final guidance potentially could omit some ingredients that food companies currently are counting as fiber. Once the F.D.A. rules on what ingredients meet the fiber definition, calculated fiber consumption probably will decrease, but only initially, said David W. Plank, senior technical manager for Medallion Labs, Minneapolis, at the AACC International meeting.
“One of the nice things about the new regulation is pointing out all the new areas and benefits of dietary fiber that people were not aware of before,” he said.
This situation should create new opportunities for businesses to manufacture products that address the specific physiological benefits of fiber.
“We would see that over time the new regulations will drive up new products and new fiber solutions for consumers.” Mr. Plank said.
Suppliers of inulin and resistant starch had scientific research to back up their citizen petitions.
Inulin companies Beneo, Cosucra Groupe Warcoing S.A. and Sensus B.V. submitted a citizen petition on Sept. 12, 2016, that asked the F.D.A. to include inulin-type fructans in a new dietary fiber definition. While the F.D.A. said one physiological health benefit may qualify an ingredient for fiber status, the petition said inulin-type fructans have several physiological health benefits, including improved laxation/bowel function, increased calcium absorption, reduced blood cholesterol levels and attenuated postprandial blood glucose levels.
Cosucra Groupe Warcoing S.A., a Belgian company, develops, produces and markets natural food ingredients from chicory roots and yellow peas. The company has produced inulin-type fructans since 1986. They are sold worldwide. Cargill, Minneapolis, distributes the ingredients in the United States.
“We continue to believe that chicory root fiber will ultimately meet the Food and Drug Administration’s definition of dietary fiber,” said Pam Stauffer, global marketing programs manager for Cargill. “It is the most researched fiber in the marketplace with good evidence to support its beneficial health outcomes.”
Besides the physiological health benefits mentioned in the citizen petitions, Ms. Stauffer brought up sugar reduction as another benefit. Inulin, or chicory root fiber, may provide functional roles in reduced sugar applications as it is mildly sweet and may help modulate the flavor of some high-intensity sweeteners.
Sensus showed how inulin may reduce sugar in applications at the AACC International meeting. A brownie with a sugar reduction of 25% had 3 grams of chicory root fiber per 30 grams. An oatmeal raisin cookie with a sugar reduction of 33% had 5 grams of chicory root fiber per 30 grams.
Beneo, Inc., Morris Plains, N.J., may point to two studies published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition showing chicory root fibers support digestive health by improving bowel regularity and softening stools while being well-tolerated. One study involved slightly constipated adults, and the other study involved children of the ages 2 to 5. A third study found prebiotic chicory root fibers significantly can lower the blood glucose response when used to partially replace sugars in a food product. The clinical trials in that study were carried out at Oxford Brooks University in Oxford, United Kingdom.
MGP Ingredients, Atchison, Kas., in November 2016 filed a citizen petition with the F.D.A. asking the agency to further confirm the status of the company’s patented Fibersym RW and FiberRite RW resistant wheat starches as dietary fiber. Scientific studies have shown how the ingredients contribute to lower total blood cholesterol levels and reduce waist circumference and total body fat percentages, according to the company. MGP Ingredients at the AACC International annual meeting sampled a chocolate chip cookie that contained 5 grams of fiber per 30-gram serving due to the inclusion of Fibersym RW.
Last year the F.D.A. approved a petition submitted by Ingredion, Inc., Westchester, Ill., that resulted in a qualified health claim. Food manufacturers now may communicate the relationship between high-amylose maize resistant starch and a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. Food manufacturers on their products now may give claims such as “High-amylose maize resistant starch may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. F.D.A. has concluded that there is limited scientific evidence for this claim.”