Friday, April 1, 2011

Check twice before buying probiotic food: ICMR comes out with new guidelines on probiotic organism in food

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, March 31: With unscrupulous manufacturers passing off uncertified food products as "probiotic", the Indian Council of Medical Research has come out with new guidelines to check the menace.
Probiotic food is increasingly gaining acceptance among health-conscious people in the country. But in the absence of any regulation on their manufacture, marketing and sale, consumers are often cheated by unscrupulous manufacturers through wrong labels.
The new guidelines ensure that the probiotic food sold in the market is healthy, safe and really probiotic in nature, and had passed all mandatory health and safety tests.
Probiotics are bacteria that help maintain the natural balance of microflora in the intestines. The normal human digestive tract contains about 400 types of probiotic bacteria that reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and promote a healthy digestive system.
The most commonly marketed food containing Lactobacillus interacts with the immune system, fights cancer, acts as a biotherapeutic agent in cases of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea, travellers’ diarrhoea, paediatric diarrhoea, inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome.

The increasing globalisation of food trade has resulted in India being a fast emerging market for probiotic products. The global probiotic market is expected to be worth US$ 32.6 billion by 2014 with a compound annual growth rate of 12.6 per cent. The probiotic product industry in India is estimated to be around Rs 20.6 million with a projected annual growth rate of 22.6 per cent until 2015.

According to ICMR director Dr VM Katoch, the new guidelines comprehensively address the various concerns regarding safety, efficacy and reliability as well as labelling of probiotic products being sold in India
There's a need for strict vigilance as not all probiotic bacteria are always safe.
Enterococcus, for instance, has emerged as an important cause of nosocomial (hospital) infections and isolates are increasingly becoming resistant to drugs like vancomycin. The side effects associated include systemic infections, deleterious metabolic activities, excessive immune stimulation in susceptible individuals and gene transfer.

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