Having studied 55 products labeled "probiotic," Belgian biologists conclude that in fact, not every product that claims to be "probiotic" actually contains the bacteria associated with this claim. In addition, in many cases the researchers found bacteria other than those named on the label.
"Probiotic" refers to foods that contain certain bacteria, which are said to have beneficial effects on colon flora and the immune system.
The researchers studied the micro-flora of 25 dairy products and 30 powdered products that are used as nutritional supplements. More than a third of the powdered products contained no living bacteria whatsoever - unlike the dairy products, which contained up to a billion living microorganisms per milliliter.
In identifying the bacteria, they found that only thirteen percent of the products contained all bacteria types included on the label.
Meanwhile, in one third of all the products, the researchers found other bacteria not listed on the label. However, these could be classified as harmless. The researchers criticize that the packaging often features incorrect, but nice-sounding bacteria names. They say that in the interest of the consumer, it is necessary to have label the products correctly.
This research will be published later this year in the International Journal of Food Microbiology.
101st General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), Orlando, Florida; May 2001