Codex fiber nutrient claims unlikely to promote consistency

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Codex alimentarius Food

Fiber nutrient content claims recommended last week by Codex are unlikely to generate consistency in product labeling due to widely varying national differences in serving sizes.

The nutrient content recommendations were adopted during a Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) meeting held in Rome last week, which also set out a definition of ‘fiber’. To read about the fiber definition, click here​.

Although the provision doesn’t carry any legal weight, it is designed to provide recommendations that could be used around the world in order to promote consistency.

“It’s more like a harmonization effort so people are talking about the same things if they use terms such as ‘source of’ or ‘high in’ fiber,”​ a member of the Codex secretariat told

The provision, available here​, provides three options for measuring the fiber content of products in order for them to carry ‘source’ or ‘high’ claims.

Source of fiber

A product can claim to be a ‘source’ of fiber if it contains:

· At least 3g fiber per 100g

· At least 1.5g per 100 kcal

· At least 10 percent of the daily reference value per serving

High in fiber

A product can claim to be ‘high’ in fiber if it contains:

· At least 6g fiber per 100g

· At least 3g per 100 kcal

· At least 20 percent of the daily reference value per serving

National differences

However, these guidelines are unlikely to generate labeling consistency around the world due to differences in serving sizes and recommended reference values in different countries.

In the US, the daily recommended intake for fiber is 25-38g. In Europe, recommended intake varies by country. For example, in France, the DRI is 25-30g; in Germany it is 30g, and in the UK it is 18g.

Therefore, in the US, for example, a food must contain at least 5g or fiber to be considered ‘high’ in fiber, which corresponds to 20 percent of the 25g daily value required on labels.

In addition, the US is one of the few countries with mandated serving sizes – RACC, or Reference Amount Customarily Consumed – set by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for all foods.

In some cases, this could mean that more fiber would be needed in the US to make the same type of nutrient content claims – in this country, a food containing 10 percent of the daily value of a given nutrient per RACC can be described as ‘containing’ that nutrient or as a ‘good source’, which is comparable to the Codex ‘source’ claim.

According to Cynthia Harriman, director of Food and Nutrition Strategies at the nonprofit group The Whole Grains Council, “arriving at a standard international definition of fiber is useful, but national concerns will still prevail”.

“Using the Codex guidelines, most European countries will count a food as high in fiber if 6 percent of the total weight of the product consists of fiber. In the US, however, more stringent regulations, tied to serving sizes, will require anywhere from 10 percent (bread) to as much as 33 percent (certain flatbreads) of a product's weight to consist of fiber, before a ‘high in fiber’ claim can be made."

According to FDA’s RACC list, bread has an RACC of 50g, while rye crisp breads have a RACC of 15g.

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