Page last updated at 09:48 GMT, Friday, 2 October 2009 10:48 UK

Probiotic health claims dismissed

Lactobacillus colonies under a microscope
Lactobacillus bulgaricus is one of the probiotics found in health drinks and yoghurts

General health claims for "probiotic" drinks and yogurts have been dismissed by a team of experts from the European Union.

Their opinions will now be voted on by an EU Committee which is drawing up a list of permitted health claims.

Scientists at the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) looked at 180 health claims for the supplements.

They rejected 10 claims and said a further 170 had not provided enough evidence of their effects.

The manufacturers of best-selling yogurt drinks Actimel and Yakult have submitted claims that will be considered at a later stage.

EFSA is reviewing all health claims made for food products following the introduction of a new EU law in 2006 which stipulated that all medical-sounding marketing claims must be verified.

The European Commission will eventually consider the list drawn up by the EU committee and develop legislation which will be voted on by member states.

No products or health claims will change until that legislation is published.

Albert Flynn, who chairs the EFSA panel which looked at these claims, said the first stage had been to look at general health claims for the products.

More specific claims from individual manufacturers will be considered next.

He said: "It's been an issue for some time that general health claims are made about these products using the family name for the active ingredient and not saying which member of the family is in the pot.

"We expect the claims that will come now from the companies will be much more specific."

A Yakult spokesman said: "Yakult has submitted claims for Lactobacillus casei Shirota, a well characterised probiotic strain unique to Yakult.

"Evidence for its health benefit is based on over 70 human studies and over 70 years of research.

"Opinions on claims submitted for this strain are not expected until 2010."

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