8 Mar 2013

Probiotic crackdown could benefit NZ

1:00 pm on 8 March 2013

A New Zealand scientist says a food safety ruling in Europe could provide new opportunities for New Zealand manufacturers of dairy-based probiotics.

Probiotics are live micro-organisms, most commonly bacteria found in dairy products, that can have beneficial impacts on gut health.

In December, the European Food Safety Authority turned the EU probiotics market upside down by banning most of the health claims made by their manufacturers and even the word probiotics itself.

It argued the scientific evidence many companies use to justify their health claims did not stack up and consumers needed to be protected.

Professor Paul Moughan of the Riddet Institute at Massey University said there's no doubt New Zealand consumers are being misled too.

He said a huge amount of scientific research around the world has shown the establishment of certain bacteria in the gut is very important for human health.

Professor Moughan said the EFSA ruling provides a positive opportunity for companies to do the right scientific research to prove their claims and capture market share.

The Ministry for Primary Industries said probiotic claims in New Zealand and Australia are now covered by the new trans-Tasman health claims standard - which specifies what label claims manufacturers can make.

However, it said there are no plans to investigate current claims being made here by manufacturers.