The probiotic food sector used to be the fastest-growing and most innovative food sector prior to 2012, when the EU Claims Regulation came into force. While the term ‘probiotic’ has been essentially outlawed in some (but not all) EU countries, many products are still labelled as ‘probiotic’ without clear or harmonised criteria or conditions in most cases. As a result, consumers are confused, suffering from the lack of communication about probiotics and products containing probiotics.
Ambiguity impacts the sector negatively and goes against the EU’s declared objectives to sustain and promote economic growth and quality jobs. It also poses serious problems for consumers and health care professionals, who receive conflicting answers to their questions about probiotics.
In the meantime, probiotic technology is innovating at a very fast pace, creating urgency for a more efficient and streamlined regulatory framework for consumers, regulators and the industry. The probiotic sector cannot wait any longerthere is an urgent need to find concrete, pragmatic solutions.
The use of probiotics in the treatment of periodontitis has aroused the interest of the scientific community, since they can modulate the immunoinflammatory host response and modify the bacterial microenvironment. The oral cavity is a complex microbial system that harbours more than 700 different bacterial species, and the biofilm is associated with infectious diseases such as periodontal disease. The aim of probiotic therapy is to replace non-resident pathogens with non-pathogenic bacteria, meaning the probiotic must be antagonistic toward the pathogens to be replaced, must resist the environmental conditions, and must host defence mechanisms while avoiding promoting the development of caries.
The intake of specific probiotic strains could also support the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, an enormous surface area that is optimised to efficiently absorb nutrients, water and electrolytes from food. Concomitantly, it provides a selective barrier against the ingress of harmful substances and pathogens from the external environment. A dysfunctional intestinal barrier is associated with many diseases and disorders, including coeliac disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). Several probiotic strains have been shown to successfully prevent traveller’s diarrhoea and prebiotic treatment could counteract some GI effects of obesity.