The new Nutrition Facts regulations redefine fiber, adding a requirement that certain isolated or synthetic fiber ingredients must show a beneficial effect on human health. But implementation of those new regulations will probably be postponed until 2020.

In addition, two petitions have been filed requesting that the FDA revoke the new definition of dietary fiber completely, and revert to the old chemical definition. During this period of regulatory uncertainty for fiber claims, dairy formulators should reexamine the functional benefits of potential fiber ingredients.


New definition

The new definition of dietary fiber includes fibers that are intrinsic and intact in plants, as well as “isolated or synthetic non-digestible carbohydrates (with three or more monomeric units) determined by FDA to have physiological effects that are beneficial to human health.” According to an FDA published science review, beneficial effects of fibers might include effects on blood cholesterol levels, blood glucose levels, laxation/bowel function, energy intake, mineral absorption and calcium absorption/retention.

FDA determined that seven fibers are recognized as having health benefits: beta-glucan, cellulose, guar gum, locust bean gum, pectin, hydroxypropylmethylcellulose and psyllium husk. For other fibers, manufacturers must submit a citizen petition to FDA outlining scientific evidence of a beneficial physiological effect to human health. But throughout 2017, the agency issued a series of interim responses indicating that it has “not been able to reach a decision” on these petitions within the first 180 days of receipt because of limited resources.

The fibers that are potentially under review include gum acacia, alginate, apple fiber, bamboo fiber, carboxymethylcellulose, corn hull fiber, cottonseed fiber, galactooligosaccharides, inulin/oligofructose/synthetic short chain fructooligosaccharides, karaya gum, oat hull fiber, pea fiber, polydextrose, potato fibers, pullulan, rice bran fiber, high amylose corn/maize starch (resistant starch 2), retrograded corn starch (resistant starch 3), resistant wheat and maize starch (resistant starch 4), soluble corn fiber, soy fiber, sugar beet fiber, sugar cane fiber, wheat fiber, xanthan gum and xylooligosaccharides.


Isolated fiber ingredient benefits

During this time of regulatory uncertainty, dairy companies should continue to evaluate both the health and functional benefits of potential fiber ingredients. One nutrition expert  suggests that adding fiber to cultured dairy foods makes sense because probiotic bacteria need a steady supply of appropriate carbohydrates.

“Consumers may like the idea of one food/beverage providing both prebiotics and probiotics,” said Mary Ellen Camire, Ph.D., CFS, professor of food Science & human nutrition, University of Maine. “Natural sources of fiber also contain copassengers such as flavonoids, minerals and other compounds that affect health. However, if consumers want more fiber — and nearly all Americans should eat more fiber — they should have the choice of bland, easily mixed isolated and synthetic fibers added to foods that would not otherwise contain fiber.”

Isolated and synthetic fiber ingredients can optimize the texture of dairy products.

“The big story with chicory root fiber right now is clean label and sugar reduction,” said Taylor Halstead, product manager for specialty carbohydrates, Cargill. “While chicory root fiber first generated interest because it was an invisible fiber that was easy to work with for fiber fortification, today there’s more interest around texture and bulking — especially as it relates to sugar reduction. Its digestive health benefits, for many customers, are a secondary benefit.”

Violaine Fauvarque, marketing manager for Alland & Robert, also give high marks to acacia gum.

“Acacia gum is resistant to acidity and heat, and its pH is compatible with milk proteins,” she said. “In dairy products and ice creams, it is used as a fat replacer, a thickening agent and a texture improver.”

Check the status of petitions at or communicate with your fiber ingredient supplier for more information.