In France, the term ‘probiotic’ can be used as well as the claim “contributes to the balance of the intestinal flora”, under certain conditions.
In January 2023 France joined a growing movement of countries allowing the use of the term ‘probiotic’ in food and food supplements. France states that the term probiotic refers to live microorganisms that, when consumed in adequate quantities, have a beneficial effect on the health of the host by contributing to the balance of the intestinal flora. The use of the term is allowed as a category name in food supplements if the products comply with the definition and contain a significant amount of live cells (in the range of 107 to 109 live cells of one strain per day). Additionally, a claim referring to the effect of probiotics on the balance of the intestinal flora can be used on the label and in commercial communication. In practice, this is aligned with the Italian wording “favorisce/contribuisce”, which corresponds to the wording French “contribue à l’équilibre de la flore intestinal”.
In Europe, the term ‘probiotic’ is accepted in some Member States, but not in others. According to the principle of mutual recognition, the product legally produced in a country that allows the use of the term ‘probiotic’ is in free circulation in the European Union.
The DGCCRF has updated the Q&A about the implementation of the nutrition and health claims (Regulation (CE) n°1924/2006) with Q29 and Q30 about probiotic food and food supplements: https://www.economie.gouv.fr/dgccrf/Consommation/Etiquetage-des-produits/Allegations-nutrionnelles-et-de-sante
In what context did the French decision come about? The European Commission only recognizes the term probiotic as a “health claim”, which can be used if accompanied by a specific health effect. There is therefore no European regulatory framework to identify probiotic microorganisms and conditions of use in foods and food supplements. The lack of a harmonised regulatory framework and the lack of clarity on the definition of probiotic foods at the European level has led individual Member States to adopt national rules or practices to allowthe use of the term ‘probiotic’ on the label. Italy and the Czech Republic already implemented National guidance, with specific conditions of use that apply to food and food supplements. Spain has officially permitted the use of the term ‘probiotic’ on labels for foods and food supplements from November 2020. Since May 2021 Denmark is also allowing the use of probiotic labels for dietary supplements while it waits for the EC to clarify its views, and the Netherlands included probiotics in an updated version of the “Nutrition and Health Claims Handbook.” Other countries allowing the use of the term are Bulgaria, Malta and Poland.
IPA together with IPA Europe are working diligently to improve the European environment for probiotics in food and food supplements with defined criteria, and they will continue to ask for further clarity in probiotic rules in Europe and around the world.