Commission proposes nutrition labelling revision

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

Consultations are open on proposals to define dietary fibre, update
recommended daily allowances (RDAs) and change energy conversion
factors in European labelling amendments.

Product labelling has been a hot issue in the food industry in the past few months, as the Commission has sought to end inconsistent labelling across Europe and assist consumers eat healthily with new stricter regulations. An updated version of amendments to the Nutrition Labelling Directive (90/496/EEC) was issued by the Commission on April 3, on which member states are free to comment until April 18. The changes are aimed at providing clarity and coherence with other legislation as well as updating the recommendations to account for scientific developments. They look at determining which foods can be described as dietary fibre, developing a new energy conversion factor for the sweetener erythritol, and revising RDAs for vitamins and minerals. Narrowing dietary fibre definition ​Fibre has been found to have beneficial physiological effects such as decreasing intestinal transit time, increasing stool bulk, reducing blood total cholesterol, reducing blood low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels and reducing blood insulin levels. New scientific findings show that similar health benefits result from the consumption of other carbohydrate polymers that are neither digestible nor naturally occurring. Therefore the Commission is looking at including some carbohydrate polymers under the definition for fibre. To be called fibre, polymers would have to provide one or more beneficial physiological effects and may be either associated with the plant lignin or with other non-carbohydrate components such as phenolic compounds, waxes, saponins, phytates and cutin. The proposals say that when these substances are extracted with the carbohydrate polymers, they can be grouped under the term 'fibre'. However, if these individual substances are extracted from the plant and added to the food, they should not be defined as dietary fibre. Erythritol ​The sweetener erythritol is a polyol that naturally occurs at low levels in many fruits and at higher levels in fermented foods such as soy sauce, cheese, wine and beer. It contains a variety of benefits, including low-calorie content, low GI index and a low laxative effect. It was approved in July 2006, with approval by member states required by February 15. Its energy is currently calculated using the conversion factor for polyols, which is 10kJ per gram (2.4 kcal per gram). The Commission considers using these measures for conversion would not fully inform the consumer about the reduced energy value of a product achieved by the use of the low calorie sweetener. The Scientific Committee on Food said the energy it provides is actually less than 0.9kJ per gram (0.2kcal per gram). Therefore, a new energy conversion factor for erythritol has been proposed. RDAs for vitamins and minerals ​Current RDAs for vitamins and minerals are based on recommendations made by the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the UN and the World Health Organisation in 1988. The Commission wants to update the quantities of vitamins and minerals suggested in RDAs in response to scientific developments since this time. The transition period for this legislation has not yet been determined. ​The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has called for comment from all stakeholders on the proposals, which can be given via its website: http://www.food.gov.uk/consultations/consultwales/2008/nutlabelwales0803

Related topics: Food safety and labeling

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