National Starch: Expanding Horizons
National Starch, Bridgewater, NJ, wants consumers to eat more fiber and it will do everything in its power to make that happen. In fact, it has even gone as far as filing a Citizen’s Petition with FDA to make sure consumers understand how to get more fiber in their diets. Discussing the motive behind filing this petition was Rhonda Witwer, business development manager, Nutrition. “As we worked with companies to develop products it became very apparent that fiber was a behind-the-scenes way of lowering the glycemic impact of foods,” she said, adding, “It became obvious that if fiber remained within the carbohydrate content on the nutrition facts panel that it would send a complicated message to consumers.”
The company’s petition, sent to FDA in early July, asked the agency to modify carbohydrate content labeling on foods. National Starch believes that dietary fiber should be separated from the total carbohydrates on nutrition labels in order to differentiate digestible and glycemic carbohydrates from non-digestible, non-glycemic carbohydrates in the nutrition facts panel. National Starch based its recommendations on the National Academy of Sciences’ (NAS) Macronutrients Report, as well as the Codex Alimentarius Guidelines on Nutrition Labeling. The NAS report differentiates digestible carbohydrates from non-digestible carbohydrates in its evaluation of the physiological impact of carbohydrates and fiber. The Codex Alimentarius Guidelines, which have been adopted in most countries throughout the world, have defined carbohydrates as “available” carbohydrates, which do not include fiber.
Furthermore, Ms. Witwer feels the industry should come up with a better way of talking about the glycemic impact of foods. “Glycemic index was defined 20 years ago as a research tool and it remains a good research tool today, but it is very complicated and not easy to implement at the consumer level,” she said. “Several people have testified in the U.S. that lowering the glycemic index of foods is a positive thing to do, but that using the glycemic index might not be the most appropriate tool for communication.” She continued, “I think we can expect a lot of debate and discussion about the appropriate analytical method for determining glycemic impact. However, the evidence is coming out stronger and stronger every month, suggesting that lowering the glycemic impact of foods benefits health.”
The evolving role of fiber in public health has also been of interest to National Starch. Most recently, according to Ms. Witwer, the Dietary Guidelines committee identified seven nutrients that were of concern for adults and children and fiber was one of them—along with vitamins A, C, E, magnesium, potassium and calcium. As such, Ms. Witwer sees fiber receiving a lot of attention in the coming year when the Dietary Guidelines are released. The company is poised to take advantage of this opportunity with its line of resistant starch ingredients. Ms. Witwer explained, “It is difficult to add traditional fiber to foods because it has a high water holding capacity, which can significantly change the taste, texture and appearance of foods. Resistant starch on the other hand will boost fiber content and at the same time leave taste, texture and appearance unaffected. For the future, we will have a much better chance of increasing fiber consumption if we can put it in foods that people already consume.”
National Starch has also recently become active in the omega 3 arena by signing an agreement with Omega Protein, Houston, TX. Beth Way, market development specialist, says the agreement calls for the development of an omega 3 ingredient encapsulated in a starch, enabling food processors to add a certain amount of omega 3s to foods such as bread or other baked goods without affecting the taste, texture or aroma. “We can put this ingredient into foods up to a level that would be equivalent to what you would get in common fish,” she said. Ms. Way expects the partnership to expand in other product areas as well, beyond baked goods. “This is an exciting opportunity for us because we are now involved with an ingredient that is recognized by FDA and the consumer,” she said. “The agreement really underlines the importance of using quality starting material, which is why we chose Omega Protein as a partner in this endeavor.”—R.M.W.
10 Finderne Avenue
Bridgewater, NJ 08807
Website: www.foodstarch.com; www.carbohydratenutrition.com