Use of the word “probiotics” in Spain

Nov 04, 2020
Sébastien Bouley

Currently, there is no definition of a probiotic in the field of food safety legislation in the European Union. The word “probiotic” is used in a general way and designates bacterial species, bacterial strains or species of living microorganisms, such as Lactobacillus helveticus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, etc. In the absence of specific legislation which regulates the use probiotics in human food, the QPS list of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is taken as a reference for their safe use in food.

Currently, are marketed on the European market of food supplements containing a or more strains of living microorganisms as well as infant dietetic preparations which contain different strains of living microorganisms added as ingredients. In all cases, these products comply with the safety requirement, even if to date none of the microorganisms used have been able to demonstrate a beneficial health effect on the general healthy population, in accordance with the standards established by the European Authority for Food Safety (EFSA). Some food supplements include the word “probiotics” on their labeling.

In the Commission guide published on December 14, 2007, relating to the implementation of Regulation 1924/2006 on nutritional and health claims which has no legal value, it was considered that the statement “contains probiotics” is a health claim. It is clear that there are differences of interpretation between European countries, with some countries allowing the use of the word “probiotics”. Taking into account the principle of mutual recognition established by the Treaty of the European Union, it is not possible to prevent their marketing in Spain with the term probiotics because these products come from European countries where the use of the word probiotics is possible.

As a result, the Food Safety and Food Authority (AESAN) considered in its opinion of October 27, 2020 that it could be accepted that the term “probiotic / s” appears on the label of food products , manufactured either at national level or from other countries of the European Union until there is a joint decision of the Member States of the European Union, In all cases, these foodstuffs must meet to the security requirement. However, it should be noted that the use of this term can not be accompanied by any health claim, unless expressly authorized by the European Union regulation (more information).

For more information, you can consult the AESAN press release (in Spanish).

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