Fiber food ingredients sourced from plants have long been used in meat and poultry products to provide varied functions, including water holding, gel forming and fat binding. The most common applications include luncheon meats, meatballs, patties and sausages.


The US Dept. of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued on Oct. 5, 2017, an updated directive detailing the ingredients that may be used in the production of meat and poultry products. The new directive now explicitly allows the inclusion of inulin and chicory root fiber in USDA-labeled products. 


Inulin, which may be called chicory root fiber when it contains a minimum of 85 percent dietary fiber based on appropriate AOAC method of analysis, is a naturally sourced, label-friendly ingredient. It can bind water in processed meats, improving the product’s sensory characteristics and boosting yields through cook cycles. It may also be used as a fat replacer in low-fat meat applications. The directive allows for the ingredient to be added up to 5 percent of the product formulation.


More recently, inulin and inulin-type fructans, including chicory root fiber along with high-amylose starch (resistant starch 2); polydextrose; mixed plant cell wall fibers, including sugar cane fiber and apple fiber; arabinoxylan; alginate; galactooligosaccharide; and resistant maltodextrin/dextrin, were officially recognized as fiber by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). According to a final guidance published on June 14, 2018, in the Federal Register, these eight non-digestible carbohydrates join others previously recognized as fiber by FDA and can be quantified on Nutrition Facts labels. The presence of fiber in packaged foods appeals to many health- and wellness-seeking shoppers who are trying to increase their intake of this vital nutrient that is deficient in many diets.


The eight approvals give food manufacturers additional clarity in updating their labels as needed ahead of the compliance date for FDA’s new Nutrition Facts Label, which is Jan. 1, 2020, for manufacturers with $10 million or more in annual food sales, and Jan. 1, 2021, for smaller manufacturers.


The announcement follows various petitions, many with like-ingredient suppliers joining together to request the addition of beneficial non-digestible fibers to FDA’s definition of fiber, which was issued on May 27, 2016. This was FDA’s first time defining fiber, with the definition being “non-digestible soluble and insoluble carbohydrates (with three or more monomeric units), and lignin that are intrinsic and intact in plants; or isolated or synthetic non-digestible carbohydrates (with three or more monomeric units) determined by the FDA to have physiological effects that are beneficial to human health.”


All eight of the recently approved fibers fit the second definition. The petitions, and supporting research, clearly showed that the fibers support physiological health benefits as assessed by FDA’s strict criteria.


FDA’s examples of beneficial physiological effects include lowering blood glucose and cholesterol levels; lowering blood pressure; increase in frequency of bowel movements (improved laxation); increased mineral absorption in the intestinal tract; and reduced energy intake (for example, due to the fiber promoting a feeling of fullness).


Click HERE to read the FDA published ruling.