China pushes oligosaccharide use

By Dominique Patton

- Last updated on GMT

China wants to boost consumption of the gut healthy carbohydrates, oligosaccharides, including the ingredient in next year's public health improvement programme.

The Centre for Public Nutrition and Development said this week that increasing consumption of oligosaccharides, known to have a prebiotic effect, will help the balance of microflora and boost the population's immune systems. It plans to encourage food producers to add oligosaccharides to foods, despite the higher production costs involved (between 3-5 per cent, according to the department). Under its public health improvement programme, China has previously promoted the addition of iodine to salt (1993), nutrient-enriched flour and rice, iron-fortified soy sauce and vitamin A-enriched oil. Zeng Hongying, director of the programme, told that the centre had already conducted many experiments on both animals and humans to investigate the benefits of oligosaccharides. "The general public has very little knowledge about the advantages of oligosaccharides so this programme will promote their consumption through books, commercials and lectures."​ The centre plans to cooperate with food producers to market the benefits of the ingredient. "So far, there are already three to four companies that have established a relationship with us. It will be a win-win situation, since as more people realize the importance of oligosaccharides, the market demand will grow."​ About 600 or 700 companies already use oligosaccharides in food products, including dairy products, biscuits and confectionery, said Zeng. China currently has a standard in place for production of oligosaccharides but no standard for their application in foods. "It is our primary job is to urge and assist the government to set up such a standard as soon as possible. Japan, Europe and America have some very advanced standards that we can follow,"​ said Zeng. Additional reporting by Pan Yan

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