The fight for a fibre definition

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

Tighter definitions will assist, but not resolve, issues surrounding the marketing and understanding of various fibre forms, according to a Tate & Lyle-penned editorial appearing in the June issue of the British Nutrition Foundation Nutrition Bulletin.

Tate & Lyle’s​group manager of regulatory affairs, Victoria Betteridge, observed that differing methods of analysis have, “repeatedly raised concerns during the lengthy process to finalise the definition of dietary fibre”​ at Codex level.

But while Codex Alimentarius, the World Health Organization’s food regulation body, recently recommended a standard fibre definition, its uniform use is not guaranteed, and other issues such as taste remain.

That definition describes fibre as one of three categories of carbohydrate polymers: Naturally occurring edible carbohydrate polymers; carbohydrate polymers obtained from food raw material by physical, enzymatic or chemical means; and synthetic carbohydrate polymers.

But Betteridge said this, “does not mean a one-stop regulation that fits all countries.”

“It does though provide a standard for the Codex member country governments to use as a basis for consideration for national legislation and gives directional guidance that reflects the global scientific and regulatory consensus,”​ she wrote.

“In the end, it is left for governments to regulate and, as we have seen with the European Union, their definitions increasingly combine learning from the past with advances in food chemistry, a greater understanding of the differing physiological properties of dietary fibres and a high level of consumer protection.”

Dull

Betteridge noted that, definition-tweaking aside, fibre still suffered from a “dull reputation”​ and association with “poor taste”​, that meant despite dietary guidelines, fibre consumption levels typically remained below recommended levels.

“Developments in the range of fibres available that are more palatable and functional in application enable consumers to have greater choice and more opportunities to eat fibre-enriched foods for a better balanced, healthy diet.”

But she added: “A standard for fibre will help provide a consistent message for the consumer as to what is and is not considered dietary fibre.”

Codex

The provision, available here​, provides three options for measuring the fibre content of products in order for them to carry ‘source’ or ‘high’ claims.

Source of fiber

A product can claim to be a ‘source’ of fibre if it contains:

· At least 3g fibre per 100g

· At least 1.5g per 100 kcal

· At least 10 percent of the daily reference value per serving

High in fiber

A product can claim to be ‘high’ in fibre if it contains:

· At least 6g fibre per 100g

· At least 3g per 100 kcal

· At least 20 percent of the daily reference value per serving

It does not provide guidelines on the methods of analysis that must be used for dietary fiber, compared to the previously debated definition which was based on the method developed by the Association of Official Analytical Chemists (AOAC).

In Europe, recommended intake varies by country. For example, in France, the DRI is 25-30g; in Germany it is 30g, and in the UK it is 18g. In the US, the daily recommended intake for fibre is 25-38g.

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