Plant fibers and extracts, which ones?

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Increasingly, it is common to intercept the terms ‘plant fiber’ and ‘plant extracts’ in ingredient lists of a wide variety of products. What fibers? It is necessary to specify.

Plant-derived ingredients are used in numerous preparations. Sauces such as mayonnaise and pesto, vegetarian and vegan ready-to-eat foods, as well as meat products. On the latter, some vegetables contribute nitrates that serve a preservative function similar to nitrites of mineral origin.

Plant fibers can also contribute to the improvement of palatability, that is, the nutritional profiles of foods. The Nutrition & Health Claims regulation (1) allows, among other things, the presence or richness of fiber to be boasted in labeling and advertising. (2)

The Food Information to Consumers regulation, however, does not allow the use of the category name ‘plant fibers’-nor the category name ‘plant extracts’-to designate individual ingredients that belong to it. (3)

‘All ingredients within the product should be specified on the label, even when they are plant fibers and extracts of which the plants from which they come should be clearly explained’ (Min. Sal. Note, DGISAN, 12.9.17, no. 36275)

Labels bearing the enigmatic phrase ‘plant fiber’ in the ingredient list are therefore outlawed. Worse still, food products so labeled may be hazardous to the health of some vulnerable groups of consumers.

The food safety risk behind unspecified fiber mixes and/or plant extracts particularly pertains to ingredients that fall outside the list of allergens in Annex II of EU Regulation 1169/11, and yet are critical in relation to other food allergies or intolerances. Rather than in the not a few cases of favism. (4)

The https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/etichette/controlli-il-ruolo-dellamministrazione-sanitaria/dovrebberothen promptly act on labels that do not comply with safety requirements and order the necessary corrective actions where the responsible operators have not already done so.

Consumers who are allergic and intolerant or otherwise sensitive to plant-based substances would do well in the meantime to refrain from consuming products with ‘hidden ingredients.

Dario Dongo

Notes

(1) See reg. EC 1924/06 and subsequent amendments. Regarding so-called health claims, see a that reg. EU 432/12, in its consolidated text

(2) The claim ‘source of fiber,’ or similar wording, is allowed if they reach 3 and 6 g per 100 grams of product, or 1.5 kcal per 100. In contrast, a double amount is required for the use of the nutrition claim ‘high in fiber’, or ‘rich in fiber‘ (see EC reg. 1924/06, Annex)

(3) See reg. EU 1169/11, Annex VII, Part B

(4) Labeling requirements, it should be noted, also fulfill food safety assurance functions. Which does not end with the citation of allergens or ‘sensitive’ substances (e.g., caffeine and quinine, sources of phenylalanine, glycyrrhizinic acid) but extends to the duty to specify the ingredients in the appropriate manner prescribed by current regulations. With a view to protecting the generality of vulnerable consumers (see EC Reg. 178/02, Article 14)