Food Standards Australia New Zealand’s chief medical adviser Dr Bob Boyd today [Wednesday] issued advice for people who are fructose intolerant to avoid the novel food tagatose.

“Tagatose is a new food ingredient that has recently been approved by FSANZ as a lower kilojoule substitute for sugar. Tagatose occurs naturally at low levels in the gum fromSterculia setigera (an evergreen tree), as well as heated cows milk and other dairy products. It is safe for the general population but , because tagatose is metabolised in the same way as fructose, FSANZ considers that foods containing tagatose would not be suitable for people who are fructose intolerant,” Boyd said.

“About one person in every 22,000 of the population may have fructose intolerance where they have an absence of enzymes in the body which digest fructose (a naturally occurring fruit sugar, used as a sweetener in foods and beverages). Such individuals are also unable to tolerate sucrose (table sugar), which is broken down in the gut to glucose and fructose.

“If they consume foods containing fructose or sucrose it can result in low blood sugar, severe abdominal symptoms, and eventually jaundice and liver damage if consumption continues. The condition is usually detected in early childhood, and the most effective form of treatment is to eliminate fructose and sucrose from the diet and use alternative sweeteners if needed.

“Individuals who are fructose intolerant are also likely to be intolerant to tagatose therefore avoidance is recommended. The best way to avoid tagatose is to check the ingredient list of food products where it will be listed,” Boyd concluded.

The types of foods that may contain tagatose are:

  • Breakfast cereals;

  • Carbonated and non-carbonated diet soft drinks;

  • Low fat/fat free ice cream and frozen dairy desserts;

  • Diet/health bars;

  • Diet soft confectionery;

  • Hard confectionery;

  • Chewing gum;

  • Icings and frostings;

  • Special purpose foods/meal replacements.