What’s in the name ‘probiotic’? Framing the use of the term to correctly identify probiotics in food and dietary supplements
Although the international scientific definition of probiotics as “live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host” is well known, in practice we assist to the frequent misuse of the term ‘probiotic’. IPA Europe’s scientific experts have been working in collaboration with the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP), to build on this definition and provide clarity. IPA Europe recommends applying 4 criteria in providing useful EC guidance for the proper use of the term ‘probiotic’. This will also meet the objectives of the EC “Farm to Fork” strategy, of improving the information on food, based on good practices and experiences.
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
The word ‘probiotic’ in itself does not convey anything else than a generic “good for you” just like fibre, vitamins and minerals, but it is certainly not a health claim. Nonetheless, the interpretation of the European Commission did not differentiate between the word encompassing the category, and the health benefits linked to specific probiotics. The consequence is a misinterpretation of the term ‘probiotic’ and the lack of consensus on clear and harmonized criteria to qualify a microorganism as ‘probiotic’.
An expert consultation group convened under the umbrella of the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Food and Agriculture Organization, and came up with a useful definition of probiotics in 2001, which was later refined in 2014 to “live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host” (FAO/WHO, 2002 (1); Hill et al., 2014 (2)).
However, more precise criteria to qualify a ‘probiotic’ will be useful to guide clinicians and consumers in differentiating the various products on the market. The FAO/WHO definition can be translate ...