“What we are seeing is discrimination against the probiotic industry in comparison with other sectors,” said Yoghurt and Live Fermented Milk Association (YLFA) secretary general Carine Lambert referring to the EU probiotic health claim ban in an address to a packed Probiota congress in Amsterdam this week.
“It has created a lack of trust. The consumer is confused. The EU is the only region in the world where the use of the term ‘probiotic’ is banned.”
Lambert highlighted a perceived absurdity when she said, “Coke can have [new variant] ‘Coke Life’, but a probiotic can’t even be called a ‘live culture’. I am ashamed when I tell my friends; ashamed how the EU is dealing with this.”
Asked if the very word, ‘health’ could be banned, Lambert suggested the sector needed to be more provocative - “more demonstrative” - to prevent such developments, however unlikely.
Something out of nothing
She said it was not just image, but sales that had been affected, with the €5bn European sector dropping in value over the past couple of years.
“After 10 years of growth we are now declining. It is really really dramatic.”
She explained hope lay in having probiotics recognised as generic descriptors under article 1.4 of the EU nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR).
Lambert agreed with a statement from the audience that there needed to be controls and regulations around claim-making to prevent abuse and falsehoods, but observed, “you need something, not nothing. Not nothing.”
The YLFA recently announced an amalgamation with the Global Alliance for Probiotics (GAP) and the International Probiotics Association (IPA) to strengthen its voice and better its interactions with regulators.
The sector may be assisted by new gut and immunity guidance a European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) representative at Probiota said was due "very soon."