Thursday, December 31, 2009


The importance of dietary fiber cannot be overstated. Though in the strict sense it is not an assimilable nutrient, its consumption through food regularly is necessary to maintain normal health. It is note worthy that a small country like Malaysia which has a predominantly meat eating population has thought about encouraging the food industry to manufacture fiber-rich foods and declare the same on the label for the benefit of the consumer.

"The Malaysian Food Regulations 1985 have made it compulsory for most prepackaged foods to be labeled with four core nutrients, namely energy, protein, carbohydrates, and fat in the nutrition information panel. Other nutrients that may be labeled include several vitamins and minerals, provided they are present in significant amounts. Dietary fibre is another optional nutrient that may be declared in the panel. There is no official definition of dietary fibre in the Malaysian Food Regulations 1985. The Health Ministry has however recognised several compounds as dietary fibre, based on applications from the food industry. Each application has been reviewed by an expert committee, guided by established criteria that are based on the physical and physiological properties of dietary fibre, as outlined above for Codex definition. Some of these compounds include a variety of non-digestible polysaccharides (e.g. high amylose maize resistant starch, beta-glucan, polydextrose, and resistant dextrin) and oligosaccharides (e.g. galacto-oligosaccharide, inulin, oligofructose, and oligosaccharide mixtures). In a recently published gazette, to take effect from Jan 2010, the criteria for nutrient content claim for dietary fibre were announced. The minimum amount of dietary fibre that must be present in a food in order to claim as "source of" dietary fibre is 3g per 100g for a solid food or 1.5g per 100ml for a liquid food. In order to qualify to make a "high in" claim, a food must contain at least 6g of dietary fibre per 100g or 3g per 100ml for solid and liquid food respectively".

The clarity and precision in the rules governing labeling are notable. Probably realization that dietary fiber has important bearing amongst population which consume more meat through their regular diet could be the reason for the move on the part of regulatory authorities to accord such a priority for dietary fiber.


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