Probiotic products could be labelled with a ranking system in the North America and Europe after a leading researcher called for consumers to be better informed.
In a recent letter published in the journal Nature, Dr. Gregor Reid, Director of the canadian R&D Centre for Probiotics at Lawson Health Research Institute and a scientist at Western University, made the case for requiring probiotic supplements and foods to be tested to determine if they meet a new minimum set of requirements before they can be labelled as a probiotic.
The amount of probiotic research has increased rapidly over the past decade or so. Investigators have sought to answer questions such as how particular bacteria and other microbes interact with the human body, the positive effects on health they may have in supplement form, and which can survive processing, storage and the human digestive process to enable them to convey these benefits.
At the same time consumers have seen health food stores and supermarkets flooded with products claiming to be probiotics. The sheer volume of products now available, confusing scientific names for individual probiotic strains e.g. (Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 - found in Align), and often misleading information from popular television shows, websites and printed media, has left most consumers understandably unsure of which probiotic they should be speanding their money on.
Dr. Reid said his proposed initiative would force many companies to conduct proper research on their products, or call them something other than probiotic.
In order to receive a product stamp for labelling and marketing purposes, a set of well-defined experiments would have to be performed, he suggested. Once completed, the product could then receive a Category 1 or 2 stamp.
Reid concludes: “Thus, regulators could quickly and easily determine whether or not the product met the standard and approve the stamp, and consumers would be able to understand the extent to which the product had been tested.”
In his piece in Nature, Dr. Reid refers to current regulatory systems in the US, and particularly Europe, which prevent manufacturers of probiotic products from being able to have them subjected to the type of scientific studies that pharmaceuticals routinely undergo. Bureaucrats have also failed to acknowledge the positive results of high quality research that has already been conducted, he says.
According to nutraingredients-usa.com Dr. Reid has already received much support for his proposals, including from fellow scientists.
It is hoped that the publication of the proposals in such a high profile journal as Nature will make regulators sit up and take notice of such common sense.
Source: Reid G (2012) Microbiology: Categorize probiotics to speed research Nature 485:446