Guest article

'The Running Man': In search of Probiotic utopia

By George Paraskevakos, Executive Director, International Probiotics Association

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Image / Jinky Liao
© Getty Image / Jinky Liao

Related tags: Probiotics

The question came to me this past year: Why do my year end reviews resonate with film titles? The simple answer is I always draw parallel situations from film to my own life’s journey; and this year’s title couldn’t be more appropriate.

Without a moment to spare it was a game of touch down and go again. Travels began early in the year and touched many continents all for the promotion of safe and efficacious probiotics; IPA’s mission. We also worked in tandem with event organizers to promote congresses and conferences showcasing probiotic benefits, science, and education.

The ‘Running Man’s’ premise has the protagonist living a game of being hunted and survival brings prize money. In my world I live a life of meeting with many probiotic stakeholders and the end goal is having probiotic awareness and benefits based on science being understood by all stakeholders; including but not limited to regulatory agencies, health care providers, academics, researchers and consumers.

An important audience from these groups are regulators globally, where the creation of probiotic guidelines are key priorities at the country level and our work at Codex harmonized standards might reign supreme in the near future.

Important government meetings this past year included, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, the USA and China more than once, South Korea, and many EU member states through our Brussels office. Discussions on all country fronts are the same in that IPA’s work of publishing best practices for the industry are recognized and will help in regulating probiotics in a way to ensure consumer safety, that quality probiotic products are commercialized, and hopefully support for harmonized regulations for probiotics globally.

Other priorities IPA undertook this year are education initiatives through our newly formed ECC (Education and Communication Committee). Health care professionals are the ambassadors to the consumer and educating this group is key. Varied outreach was planned and will carry over in 2020 using all available media. Print, infographics, Social media, webinars, congress presentations and health care professional conferences.

On the same note of education, IPA is pleased to be part of a new initiative at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Arizona. This institution has created a new Masters of Science program for the supplement industry where as advisory council IPA is supporting the curriculum by helping in the creation of probiotic specific courses.

We also continued to forge our scientific DNA at IPA’s scientific committee. We ramped up efforts this past year on a clinical trials tool to address the incorrectly reported in the media misunderstood clinical outcomes. We also continued working on a manuscript for industry regarding the reclassification of over 20 species of Lactobacilli into new genera which is necessary for accurate and correct bacterial representation, and finally an evaluation and plans are being considered for health economic modelling in regards to probiotic consumption and the impact to countries.

Paraskevakos screenshot
George Paraskevakos, IPA's executive director

Other IPA committee work saw the release of our manufacturing guidelines in Vancouver at the IPA World Congress + Probiota Americas​ after two years of discussion and, following a one year hiatus, the comeback of our technical committee which is now working on the creation of analytical guidelines, taking into consideration what is already available but what also makes sense for the probiotic sector.

As we all know probiotics, being unique, require specific handling and considerations when manufacturing these ingredients into finished products and when analyzing them. The culmination and basis of these two committees' work will hopefully result into what I think is a needed resource for the probiotic sector – a specific quality certification program for probiotics supported by IPA. 

On the market front, this past year the US reported a small pull back on market growth probably fueled by a combination of education gaps at the HCP and consumer level and too many generic ‘copycat’ products in the market. The fact remains that the US is still the biggest market globally for probiotic dietary supplements, and we also saw an increase in probiotic users there by 60%.

Then in APAC, that market is starting to experience exponential growth, where China represents over 50% of that market, and in Europe we are starting to see a small comeback in the supplement market. So varying market situations are region specific, just like the regulatory environments which exist around the globe. 

By continuing work that will ensure quality probiotic ingredients and products underlines the supporting mission of IPA. My commitment is unwavering; safeguard our industry, continue our self-policing transparent practices, maintaining the highest level for quality and continue being a credible sector ensuring consumer safety.

Unlike the movie at the end of my story there are no victims. Yes, the work at times can be difficult, spawns much debate and exchange on finding consensus. But IPA will continue to do what is right for our industry, to ensure quality and promote safe and efficacious products. Something must be said about doing the right thing where ultimately the good guys prevail.

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