(Last updated April 2012)
What is tagatose?
Tagatose is a novel food that has been approved by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).
Tagatose is very similar in chemical structure to fructose and has similar properties to traditional sugars (e.g. is sweet tasting and has similar cooking properties) but unlike most other sugars it is only partially absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract. Because of this, tagatose has a reduced energy value compared to traditional sugars and so is intended for use in foods as a reduced energy sugar substitute.
Where does tagatose come from?
Tagatose occurs naturally at low levels in the gum from Sterculia setigera (an evergreen tree), as well as heated cows milk and other dairy products. Tagatose may also be chemically synthesised in large quantities from lactose, which is where it is derived from for food use.
Is tagatose safe?
Before giving approval to the use of tagatose, FSANZ undertook a thorough evaluation of its safety for human consumption and concluded that there are no public health and safety concerns for the general population associated with the use of tagatose in food.
However, as part of this evaluation, FSANZ also concluded that foods containing tagatose would not be suitable for individuals with disorders in fructose metabolism as the absorbed fraction of tagatose is metabolised in the same way that fructose is metabolised. Individuals with such conditions are likely to also be intolerant to tagatose.
Avoidance of foods containing tagatose is therefore highly recommended for individuals with disorders in fructose metabolism.
What foods could potentially contain tagatose?
The types of foods that may contain tagatose are:
- breakfast cereals (ready to eat)
- carbonated and non-carbonated diet soft drinks
- low fat/fat free ice cream and frozen dairy desserts
- diet/health bars
- diet soft confectionary
- hard confectionary
- chewing gum
- icings & frostings
- special purpose foods/meal replacements
How can I tell if a food contains added tagatose?
The best way to tell is to carefully examine the ingredient list of the product you are considering purchasing. If tagatose has been added, it should be declared as “tagatose” in the ingredient list.