Mintel Internationalhas been increasingly aggressive in collecting ingredient and nutritional information on newly introduced products for their Global New Products Database (GNPD).

For example, in 1999, a search for new products introduced into North America with a dietary fiber claim results in a list of six nutritional products. This increased to 21 products/product lines in 2000 and 24 through mid-December 2001.

Interesting “novelty” products and benefits include Martin Field Mill's (New Paris, Ind.) Bench & Field brand Hairball Therapy cat food in which fiber helps hair move through the digestive system and Stash Tea's (Portland, Ore.) Yamamotoyama-brand Toasted Nori Seaweed Sheets for Sushi. However, new products that are a sign of things to come include dairy products such as Stonyfield Farms' (Londonderry, N.H.) YoSelf yogurt with inulin, a prebiotic dietary fiber “clinically proven to increase calcium absorption.”

High Plains Soup Company(Bridgeport, Neb.) was founded by brothers David and George Chikos, who developed a line of “homemade” soup mixes using a variety of dry beans grown on their farms in Nebraska. Available in 9 oz. presentations, the Ladle Lovers brand Premium Soup Mixes include Premium Pinto Bean, Premium Hot Pinto Bean, Premium Kidney Bean and Premium Hot Kidney Bean. Each mix is a combination of assorted dry beans, vegetables and seasonings, and the soups are all natural, have no additives or preservatives, are lowfat and high in fiber. Directions include both slow (with instructions to let the beans soak overnight) and quick cook methods (three to four hours), allowing consumers to determine how quickly they'd like their meal. They are available in parts of Nebraska, soon to be available statewide.

Kashi(La Jolla, Calif.), owned by Kellogg Company, starts with seven whole grains and sesame seeds but then adds chicory root fiber for a total fiber content of 8g per 1 cup serving in its Kashi Go Lean product. The company says the product will help consumers reach optimum health at the body weight that is most advantageous to their structures, reports the GNPD database.

Vitalicious(New York, N.Y.) BluBran muffins primarily rely on wheat, soy and oat bran for their fiber content of 4g per serving, which is one-half of a muffin.

Quaker Oats Company's(Chicago, Ill.) Nutrition for Women instant oatmeal does not appear on the GNPD database as a product specifically making a fiber claim. However, it notes that it contains 1g per serving of soluble fiber from oats, “a proven cholesterol reducer” and adds that the fiber, “along with soy protein, vitamin E, folic acid and B vitamins, actively promotes heart health.”

FDA's heart health claim could first be applied to whole oat-containing foods that provide at least 0.75g of soluble fiber per serving. In 1998, a final rule in the Federal Register was published that also allowed products that contain 1.7g of soluble fiber from psyllium seed husk per serving to carry the health claim. — FDA talk paper on soluble fiber from oats and its health claim — Update on FDA expansion to include psyllium fiber in health claim — Quaker Oats website for the Nutrition for Women brand.

Parmalat USA's(Wallington, N.J.) fat and lactose free milk adds chicory-derived inulin for a product that “combines the benefits of healthy fiber with the goodness of milk.” With its 2.5g of dietary fiber per 1 cup serving, the Lactose Free Plus brand makes the nutrient content claim “good source of fiber” on its package and provides consumers a bit of gut health education. The package notes that natural plant-derived dietary fiber increases healthy microflora, known as bifidus, in the digestive system, specifically in the colon, and that the effect is termed prebiotic.

This product joins Parmalat's other specialty milks: vitamin E- and biotin-containing Milk-e for healthy skin and reduction of cholesterol levels; and Skim Plus with 34% more calcium and proteins.

A Debate in Defining Fiber

“Dietary fiber, by definition, are compounds that are found naturally in plants or plant cell walls that are not digested by the body. It's a very broad topic. . .The newest fibers, such as inulin, resistant maltodextrins and oligosaccharides are easily incorporated fiber sources, but are too soluble to be picked up 100% by FDA-approved labeling methods,” opines Bryan Tungland, vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs, Imperial Sensus LLC, an inulin manufacturer based in Sugar Land, Texas.

Currently, FDA defines “fiber” for nutritional labeling purposes based on approved AOAC Official Methods of Analysis (or other analyses that are accurate and precise).

Presently, the food industry is utilizing two proposed definitions. The first one, put forth by the American Association of Cereal Chemists (AACC) in September 2000, is relatively simple. It says dietary fiber is composed of products that are not digested in the small intestine and which are partially fermented in the large intestine; it includes analogous substances such as polydextrose, methylcellulose, resistant starches and resistant dextrins. A second definition, drafted in September 2001 by the National Academy of Sciences (Institute of Medicine), offers a more detailed description of fiber, but is still consistent with the first definition. While the two proposals are consistent with their overall message, the latter has elements that make it more difficult to write policy and regulate using existing analytical methods, Tungland suggests.

In particular, the two definitions disagree as to how to classify these “fibers”.

This non-agreement about what constitutes dietary fiber is at the center of a heated debate whose outcome will affect government and regulatory entities, food industry representatives, food and beverage manufacturers, academia, research and methods development personnel. The FDA has yet to respond to these proposed definitions. It is not known how the FDA will respond.

Adding fiber to the diet has been proven to promote good intestinal health by maintaining healthy serum cholesterol and blood glucose levels, maintaining healthy serum triglycerides and promoting healthy laxation. Yet, “Americans only consume 50% of their daily value (25g based on a 2,000 calorie diet) of dietary fiber,” states Steve Young, Ph.D, Houston, TX, and technical adviser to Matsutani America Inc., manufacturer of a digestion resistant maltodextrin. Recently, fiber has been tied to successful weight management programs, he adds.

Fiber ingredients are not meant to replace fruits and vegetables but can help bridge the gap between what consumers need and what they are eating, says Donna Brooks, product manager at Danisco Sweeteners, a polydextrose manufacturer, Ardsley, NY. “Sometimes, people still think of fiber and constipation and old people. But, fiber is not just for a select group—everyone needs additional fiber in their foods.” — The AACC's complete definition of fiber, plus comments. — Search under “dietary fiber” for the IOM's version. Click on “FNB Dietary Fiber,” then click on “Dietary Reference Intakes: Proposed Definition of Dietary Fiber.” Seventy-six-pg. booklet can be read on-line or purchased. — Type “dietary fiber” in the American Heart Association's search field. — Publication of National Academy of Science, Food and Nutrition Board, definition of dietary fiber. Search published titles for “dietary fiber”.