The US Food and Drug Administration has given the all-clear for novel food ingredient tagatose to bear a tooth-friendly health claim. Undoubtedly a crucial step in the success of the ingredient for its supplier, Danish company Arla Food Ingredients.
In January 2002 Arla Foods filed a petition with the FDA requesting that it amend the rules to include the sugar D-tagatose as eligible to bear the dental caries health claim. In addition, it sought to exclude D-tagatose from the definition of 'sugars', thereby allowing a 'sugar free' nutrient content.
Based on the available evidence, the FDA concluded that there was enough scientific agreement to suggest that D-tagatose does not promote dental caries and that it could carry a dental caries health claim.
The decision led to an interim final rule published recently. This week the FDA is adopting as a final rule, without change, the provisions.
However the agency upheld its previous position on the sugar-free claim, asserting that "it would be false and misleading for D-tagatose containing foods to bear a 'sugar free' claim because D-tagatose is a sugar".
But to address the incongruity of a sugar-containing food bearing the dental caries health claim and to inform consumers about D-tagatose as a non-cariogenic sugar, the FDA has added the requirement that "the claim identifies D-tagatose as a sugar that, unlike other sugars, does not promote the development of dental caries".
As such, although products containing D-tagatose are not permitted to be labelled as 'sugar-free', they are authorised to state that D- tagatose sugar does not promote, or may reduce the risk of, tooth decay.
The D-tagatose sweetener and bulking agent occurs naturally in small amounts in yogurt, powdered milk, and various cheeses. It has all the properties of table sugar, but with no calories.
In 2002 German sugar giant Nordzucker entered into a joint venture with Danish food group Arla Foods to produce tagatose, patented by US company Spherix. Following the construction of the first production facility for this full-bulk sweetener, Arla is planning to market tagatose this summer.