Under rules issued in summer 2016, the FDA explained that isolated or synthetic non digestible carbohydrates must be determined to have physiological effects beneficial to human health before they can be counted as dietary fiber for nutrition labeling purposes on the new-look Nutrition Facts labels.
Should suppliers be able to convince the FDA that gum acacia (also known as gum Arabic) delivers beneficial physiological effects, manufacturers will then be able to count it as dietary fiber on the new Nutrition Facts labels, which come into effect in January 2020 for firms generating more than $10m in food sales, and January 2021 for smaller firms.
In February 2017, gum acacia manufacturers including Nexira, Ingredion (TIC Gums), Importers Service Corporation (ISC), Alland & Robert, and Kerry submitted comments to FDA outlining the beneficial physiological effects of gum acacia on energy intake, blood glucose levels, and bowel function/laxation.
In an email to FoodNavigator-USA this summer, however, an FDA spokeswoman said that gum acacia "didn’t meet the definition based on the evidence reviewed."
In an August 8, 2018 meeting, the manufacturers above sought feedback on the FDA about what evidence it was looking for and have decided to conduct “additional studies to strengthen the body of evidence supporting the beneficial physiological effects of gum acacia on blood glucose attenuation and energy intake,” according to a Nexira white paper seen by FoodNavigator-USA that's designed to help manufacturers using the ingredient keep up with developments.
This explains: “While the timeframe for FDA’s response cannot be guaranteed, we are hopeful to receive a positive response to our Citizen Petition in Summer 2019.
“Assuming we receive approval as a dietary fiber, we expect FDA will exercise enforcement discretion for the declaration of gum acacia as dietary fiber, pending completion of a rulemaking revising the regulations, as they have with other substances.”
TIC Gums (Ingredion) marketing specialist Chloe McDaniel added: "Although some studies previously submitted supported acacia as a dietary fiber it was deemed necessary to have more evidence to support FDA approval. TIC Gums is working jointly with others involved in the acacia industry to demonstrate a proven physiological benefit for acacia as a dietary fiber with clinical studies.
"We anticipate completing the studies in early 2019 and will follow the study with a citizen’s petition for approval to the FDA. Although TIC Gums is taking every step possible to provide this evidence we cannot make assumptions on behalf of the FDA. Therefore, at this time, we cannot guarantee acacia will gain approval as a dietary fiber. We will provide further updates by July 2019 based on feedback from the FDA."
Should the FDA reject the findings of the petition, or fail to respond before January 2020, gum acacia may continue to be used as an approved food additive after the compliance date and would be included in the declaration for total carbohydrate with a caloric value of 2 kcal/gram.
- Read more HERE about the FDA’s long-awaited guidance spelling out which isolated or synthetic non-digestible carbohydrates it believes should be classified as ‘dietary fiber.