Dietary Fiber on the Nutrition Facts Label

Dietary Fiber on the Nutrition Facts Label

The final rule for FDA's 2016 updates to Nutrition Facts labeling incorporates two major changes to dietary fiber that food manufacturers need to be aware of: (1) a definition of “dietary fiber” – a term that FDA had not previously defined and (2) an increase in the DRV from 25 grams to 28 grams.

Dietary Fiber is a mandatory label nutrient, and for U.S. labeling, it is considered part of the carbohydrate total. Dietary Fiber includes both soluble and insoluble fiber, which can also be reported on the label. Before the FDA’s 2016 ruling, total dietary fiber was required on Nutrition Facts/Supplement Facts labels, regardless of whether the fiber had a proven benefit to health. The FDA sought to clarify this for consumers by establishing more rigorous definitions for dietary fiber.  

Beneficial Fiber

The new definition focuses on reporting fiber that is considered beneficial to human health (i.e. exhibit physiological effects typically associated with the consumption of fiber, such as lowering blood pressure or cholesterol, or increasing satiety or bowel function). Dietary Fiber in the new regulations includes non-digestible carbohydrates and lignin that are found naturally in plants, plus added fiber (isolated or synthetic) that has a beneficial effect in humans. On Nutrition Facts/Supplement Facts labels, non-digestible carbohydrates that meet the definition of dietary fiber are listed as dietary fiber on the label and included as part of the total carbohydrate reported.

Below are 7 isolated or synthetic fibers that are included in the new definition of Dietary Fiber:

  • beta-glucan soluble fiber (soluble)
  • psyllium husk (mostly soluble)
  • cellulose (insoluble)
  • guar gum (soluble)
  • pectin (soluble)
  • locust bean gum (soluble)
  • hydroxypropylmethcellulose (soluble)

And these fibers were added to the new definition on June 14, 2018:

  • mixed plant cell wall fibers (a broad category that includes fibers like sugar cane fiber and apple fiber, among many others);
  • arabinoxylan;
  • alginate;
  • inulin and inulin-type fructans;
  • high amylose starch (resistant starch 2);
  • galactooligosaccharide;
  • polydextrose; and
  • resistant maltodextrin/dextrin.

Other (Non-beneficial) Fiber

Other fibers (such as gum acacia) can be added to a product, however, non-digestible carbohydrates that do not meet the definition of dietary fiber are not shown as dietary fiber on the label. They will still be included in the total carbohydrate number. 

Food manufacturers that would like to determine total dietary fiber in their product according to the new definition must first determine the total amount of dietary fiber and then subtract the amount of non-digestible carbohydrates that do not meet the above definitions from this total.

Total amount of dietary fiber - non-beneficial, non-digestible carbs = Total dietary fiber per new definitions.

Example: Oatmeal Fiber Bar

I want to create a high fiber oatmeal bar so I add 5g of cellulose (insoluble) and 5g of gum acacia to my recipe. The oats account for 5g of fiber.

Previous Calculation:

Based on the previous Dietary Fiber definition my bar would have 15g of Total Dietary Fiber.

New Calculation:

Based on the new Dietary Fiber definition my bar would have 10g of Total Dietary Fiber. The 5g of fiber that comes from gum acacia are not calculated in the Total Dietary Fiber, but they ARE calculated in the Total Carbohydrates.

A New DRV for Dietary Fiber

In the 2016 ruling, the FDA increased the daily reference value (DRV) for dietary fiber from 25 grams per day to 28 grams per day. This increase will require all food manufacturers to update the percent daily value (%DV) for dietary fiber on all nutrition labels.

This may impact what fiber claims the food manufacturer is eligible to use on packaging.

Food manufacturers who wish to continue to make fiber claims on their product are encouraged to review the FDA’s final ruling to determine whether the non-digestible carbohydrates in their product meet the new definition. In some cases, products may require reformulation to continue to meet the requirements for the desired claims.

Nutrient Maintenance Records

The new labeling regulations require maintenance records to support the amounts of Dietary Fiber (as well as Added Sugars, Vitamin E, and Folate/Folic Acid) added to the label because there are not analytical methods that can distinguish the required nutrient definition. As a result, the FDA allows for use of electronic databases for analysis. The final rule requires that the records be kept for at least 2 years after the food is introduced to the market.

Editor’s note: this post was originally published on June 27, 2016, and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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