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FDA approves expanded use of acacia gum

By Maggie Hennessy , 13-Jan-2014
Last updated on 13-Jan-2014 at 16:20 GMT

The US Food and Drug Administration has amended food additive regulations to allow expanded safe use of acacia gum (gum arabic) in foods, in response to a petition filed by Nexira, supplier of a dietary soluble acacia gum marketed as Fibregum. 

According to the announcement, food manufacturers can now use acacia gum in new products such as breakfast cereals, certain baked goods, and soups that are not also subject to meat and poultry regulation. Additionally,percentage of the gum firms are now allowed to use in the grain-based bars (breakfast bars, granola bars, rice cereal bars) category has been increased to 35%.

The ruling, which went into effect Dec. 6, also formally acknowledges that acacia gum supplies dietary fiber, allowing for even higher promotion on product labels. Although it’s is widely known as a fiber source, the fact that the FDA has written it into record makes it much clearer for companies, Nexira US vice president Teresa Yazbek said.

The written confirmation also reduces confusion over the fact that acacia gum can also be used as a texturizer, emulsifier, stabilizer and thickener, Yazbek told FoodNavigator-USA. “It is not a micronutrient; it is a macronutrient. You cannot use 0.1% to get benefits, like other gums. The most typical usage range for manufacturers is 3 to 10%. You might use as little as 1% for texture improvement, but if you want to do a bar with no sugar, for example, you’d have to use closer to 35%.”

Traditionally, acacia gum has been used mostly in confectionery and beverage applications. But the ruling opens a bigger array of possibilities for suppliers like Nexira in areas such as baked goods, breakfast cereals, bars, juices, ice cream, yogurt and snacks.

 “Keep in mind, the US is the only country with a limitation on the use of acacia gum,” she said. “Everywhere else, you can use as much as you want. So the ruling really opens some doors for us. Now manufacturers using it in smaller quantities or blending with other fibers and ingredients can use it in a higher dosage.”

On the heels of the ruling, Nexira expects demand for Fibregum to increase, given its attractive health benefits (90% soluble dietary fiber) and organic, clean label status. Director of business development Mathieu Dondain noted that barring some extraordinary event, supply of acacia gum won’t likely become a concern. (Global production is about 90,000 metric tons a year. Acacia gum comes exclusively from the sub-Saharan Africa.)

“We have seen and are continuing to see a stronger and stronger demand for clean label ingredients,” he said. “That’s where this approval is very good because acacia adds health benefits in addition to the fact that it’s an organic, GMO-free and a sustainable ingredient. Meeting clean label and natural requirements that the consumer has is a growing trend, and that’s where Fibregum can be a great ingredient.”

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