International probiotic group establishes quality seal standards

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Probiotic

The International Probiotics Association (IPA) has set criteria for
a mooted labeling scheme that will allow probiotics products to
bear a quality seal.

Probiotics companies can apply to the IPA to have batches of their products analyzed by third party independent agencies and if they meet the IPA criteria, will be eligible to bear the seal. At first the scheme will apply only to dietary supplements with dairy products and other foods being considered later down the line. IPA executive director, Ioannis Misopoulos, told there was a need for such a seal program because the global boom in the probiotic has seen products enter the market that don't necessarily meet their label claims. "This is something that has been in the making for about seven months,"​ Misopoulos said. "We have the consensus of the industry on this and it will allow consumers to look for the seal and know they are getting probiotic products that deliver a health benefit.Only those products that are delivering efficacious doses of probiotics at the point of consumption will be able to bear the seal."​ Seal qualifying criteria include:

  • Guaranteed minimum CFU (Colony Forming Units) count at the time of expiration of the product

  • Storage directions

  • Package lot number or production code

  • A clear identification of the probiotic bacteria including the strain (preferred) or at least the genus and species based on widely accepted nomenclature. If a trademarked name is used to identify the bacteria, the actual genus and species should also be included on the label. This information gives consumers the knowledge and chance to research the strains.

  • Full contact information for the company or at least a website if label space is restricted.

  • Directions for suggested usage (animal probiotic supplements should include target animal species)

It is expected the seal will be available on products in 6-8 months. Misopolous said there were products that claimed a certain CFU count at the time of manufacture that did not necessarily correlate with the CFU count at the time of consumption. Others used non-active cultures with no clinical backing and still others employed dead cultures. "Companies may claim a 50bn probiotic count but how many of them are alive and effective? This is one thing the seal program will ward against and lead to an improvement in quality in the probiotic market." ​ The 41-member IPA, founded in part to establish probiotic standards, draws its membership from among probiotic suppliers and product manufacturers including Nestle, Danisco, Fonterra, DSM, Chr Hansen, Morinaga and Proctor & Gamble. Danone, the world's biggest probiotic product manufacturer, is not an IPA member. "All our members want to get the seal,"​ he said. Consumers would be educated via a PR, online and trade show campaign. The 'live' nature of probiotics has made an 'official' quality scheme difficult to implement but the IPA hopes its scheme will go a long way to standardizing both product quality and health claims. Probiotics are defined as "live micro-organisms that when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host" by the World Health Organization.

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