In a recent correspondence in Nature, Dr Gregor Reid, Director of the Canadian R&D Centre for Probiotics at Lawson Health Research Institute and a scientist at Western University, called for probiotics to be subjected to a set of minimum requirements before they can be called a probiotic.
Such an initiative would force many companies to conduct research studies on their products, or call them something other than probiotic, said Dr Reid.
In order to receive a product stamp, a set of well-defined experiments would have to be performed, he said. Once completed, the product could then receive a Category 1 or 2 stamp.
“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,” he said. “With collective discussion amongst probiotic experts and regulatory agencies, this could be a universal stamp across the globe.”
Regulatory brick walls
Dr Reid cites regulatory systems in the US and Europe for halting a lot of research on probiotics in both territories.
“In Europe, bureaucrats have set up a system that has so far refused to acknowledge results of excellent clinical studies.
“The net result is an impasse, reduced R&D, and consumers left in limbo.”
In an email to NutraIngredients-USA, Dr Reid said that he had been contacted by a number of people who agreed with the concept and supported the call for change in the current systems.
“The EFSA panel remains recalcitrant, but it would take a political decision to alter the course and until the politicians see the economic rationale and the necessity in terms of them retaining political power, nothing will change.
“But, you have to hope that someone will take the initiative and have the necessary vision to move this forward. There is no question that microbial manipulation through probiotics will have a huge impact on the health of people around the world.
“It's just a case of patience and waiting till the 'old guard thinking' is replaced,” he said.
Professor Glenn Gibson of the University of Reading, United Kingdom, called the initiative “long overdue given the intransigence of European Food Safety Authority and US Food & Drug Association at present.
"The idea clearly has merit given the current confusing situation for consumers, but will regulators have the courage to even consider implementing something so sensible? Sadly I doubt it, although given the high profile of the publication in Nature, and sincerity of the idea, I can only live in hope."
Volume 485, Page 446, doi:10.1038/485446a
“Microbiology: Categorize probiotics to speed research”
Author: G. Reid