Ship of Fools: Regulatory issues for probiotics


Department of Sciences, University College Roosevelt, Middelburg, the Netherlands Laboratory for Medical Microbiology and Immunology, St. Elisabeth Hospital, Tilburg, The Netherlands

Jheronymous Bosch is the most important representative of what is called the Early Netherlands School of painting (1450-1550). His works depict heaven and hell, devils and angels, ugly and beautiful people and vast array of fantasy creatures. Every scene and detail in a painting has its special (allegoric) meaning, of which now, over 600 years after his death, many are still debated. In the painting The Ship of Fools (Figure 1) dated between 1494 and 1515, a nun and a munk are seated in the middle of a small boat, gasping for a pancake hanging from the mast of their ship. It is difficult to eat a dangling pancake without using your hands, let alone cutlery, so clearly some form of regulation would be in place here. Six centuries after Jheronymous Bosch, the European Union has set out to regulate safety, nutritional and health benefits of food and food supplements. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) was installed and assigned this task. Here we discuss the regulatory status of probiotics.

Probiotics are defined as “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host”. This definition was proposed a ...