Harmonising Probiotic Guidelines - Natural Products - Strategic Advice
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Harmonising Probiotic Guidelines

Harmonising Probiotic Guidelines

A look at why Probiotic Guidelines need to be harmonised

In recent years the International Probiotics Association (IPA) have recognised a global loophole in the marketing and sale of probiotics which do not meet its original definition.

Although highly respected by the probiotic, scientific and regulatory communities since its inception, the definition of probiotics by the Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization is now in question.

What has prompted the harmonising of the global probiotic category?

At the 39th Codex meeting, held in December 2017 in Berlin, talks of probiotic re-categorisation and the creation of new guidelines within the food and dietary supplements were kick started.

The IPA has since requested a review of the probiotics industry climate, calling for a more consistent framework and set of guidelines for this category of dietary supplements.

So what is the original definition of a probiotic?

According to the FAO/WHO, the probiotic category has been defined as: ‘Live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit to the host’. But the IPA have recognised that this definition is perhaps too singular and fails to clearly encompass the full scope and recognition of the health benefits and consumer demand of probiotics.

According to the Executive Director of the IPA, George Paraskevakos, the definition and scope of probiotics must be broadened to fit in with a global regulatory landscape that is not quite harmonised as yet.

To add to this, there have been significant technological and scientific advances within the probiotics industry since its original inception and definition. To this end, a broader, more detailed definition and scope of guidelines is now required.

Discussions at Codex 2017

Originally, the methodology for evaluating probiotics took place in 2001 by the FAO/WHO. These methodologies helped lay the groundwork for the definition and guidelines of probiotics within the marketplace. As more probiotic products have made their way to the market and as science supporting the benefits of probiotics has evolved with time, there is a dire need to revisit these frameworks.

IPA Executive Director, George Paraskevakos, expressed that a lack of harmonisation within the probiotic category can lead to serious concerns within the probiotics industry with regards to regulation, quality of products, safety of products and the accuracy of labelling.

The IPA maintains that a streamlined, organised and harmonized framework within the probiotics category will help to establish a guideline for global regulatory agencies. They also believe that this harmonization will lead to the production of better products, increasing customer satisfaction, health and well-being. The development of new guidelines is essential to sustaining quality probiotic products on a global scale.

Where to from here?

As such, the IPA have called for the development of a Codex Alimentarius in order to clearly define what a safe and effective probiotic is in today’s dietary supplement industry. Their proposal of a dedicated ‘New Work on Harmonized Probiotic Guidelines for Use in Foods and Dietary Supplements’ has been met with positive support from numerous national delegates, while Argentina’s delegation has stepped up to the plate in leading the task. They have committed to preparing a document of probiotic guidelines to be presented at the next 2018 Codex meeting.

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