Criteria to qualify a microorganism designated as “probiotic” in foods, beverages and dietary supplements

 In developing this voluntary approach, the European probiotic industry (IPA Europe) shows that it is proactive and responsible when it comes to meaningful self-regulation.

IPA Europe contends that the development of scientifically-based criteria is a prerequisite to qualifying a microbial strain as a “probiotic”. In fact, the absence of formal criteria leaves the door wide open for misuse of the “probiotic” denomination and misinterpretation of the “probiotic” concept, as is currently the case in the European Union.

Still relevant after 19 years, the FAO/WHO definition of probiotics for foods, beverages and dietary supplements can be translated into four simple and pragmatic criteria allowing one to conclude if specific strains of microorganisms qualify as a probiotic.

Defining these criteria has been a key objective of stakeholders in the probiotic field.

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What is a probiotic? The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) explains it in this educational video.

Probiotic Yoghurt

Yoghurt products can be produced with different viscosity, from high (spoonable) to low (drinkable).

The fermented milk product called yoghurt always contains two different probiotic cultures: Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. The European Food safety Authority (EFSA) has granted a general probiotic claim for yoghurt: “Live yoghurt cultures in yoghurt improve digestion of lactose in yoghurt in individuals with lactose maldigestion”.

Yoghurt can contain more and different live probiotic cultures that the L. bulgaricus and S. thermophilus. Look at the label to see the identification of the probiotics. It can be cultures like: L. acidophilus, L. casei, L. rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium animalis, Bifidobacterium bifidum. They can each have different benefits for you.

Fermented Milk Drinks

Fermented milk drinks are composite milk products. Bacteria are added to the milk, which causes a fermentation process in the milk. The final product has a large dose of lactic acid bacteria (probiotics) due to the fermentation process.

Probiotic Supplements

Probiotic cultures used in food supplements are usually in a dry form, and formulated in the appropriate galenic form, e.g. sachet, capsule, drops or tablets.

Different types of packaging can be used to protect the probiotic cultures against the envrionmental humidity, e.g. blisters or bottles. To keep the probiotic cultures alive, it is fundamental not to press the capsules out of the blisters until you are going to actually consume them. For bottles, the lid should always be put back on and tightened after use.

Probiotics packed in a blister

To keep the probiotic cultures alive, the capsules can also be packed in blisters where they are protected against the humidity in the air. It is fundamental not to  press out the capsules until you are going to actually swallow the content.

How to choose a probiotic? Another useful video from the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP).