FDA may ease oat heart-health claim criteria

Oat products that have been precluded from bearing the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved oat beta-glucan heart-health claim because they failed to meet fat-content requirements may be granted a reprieve if a PepsiCo petition succeeds.

PepsiCo, via its Quaker Oats division, petitioned the FDA because it is prevented from using the claim on some of its low-sugar offerings due to the fact they fail to meet the claim's 'low-fat' requirements. Pepsi said the products in question were only relatively high in fat because of the fat that naturally occurs in oats — levels of which had been boosted as part of the reformulation that saw sugar levels reduced among many Quaker Oats products.

It asked the FDA to permit products to make heart-health claims that were naturally high in fat due to oat content. "The petition stated that Quaker Oats Company's flavoured, unmodified instant oatmeal products are eligible to bear the soluble-fibre and CHD health claim, but flavoured, reduced-sugar instant-oatmeal products are not because the latter products do not meet the nutrient content requirement... for 'low fat'," the FDA said, adding of the proposed rule change: "The exemption would apply if the food exceeds this requirement due to fat content derived from whole-oat sources."

The FDA called for public comment but tentatively agreed with the petition. "The potential health benefits would therefore be lower and the costs higher under this (current) option than under the proposed rule," it stated in its response to Quaker Oats.

Quaker Oats said amending the claim criteria would encourage low-sugar, high-soluble-fibre product development, and assist "consumers' ability to incorporate beta-glucan soluble fibre into their diets, while reducing their sugar consumption."

As it stands, the claim is applicable to products made from oat bran, rolled oats and whole oat flour.

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