Probiotic drinks and yogurts, popular with millions of consumers trying to eat healthily, do not aid people’s digestion, according to leading European food watchdog the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
The EFSA examined more than 800 health claims from food companies, including those submitted by the multi-billion pound probiotic industry and found that the claims that these products could strengthen the body’s defences, improve immune function and reduce gut problems were either so general as to be inadmissible, or could not be shown to have the claimed effect.
In a separate ruling, the panel examined a dossier of 12 studies submitted by Yakult for its own strain of probiotic bacteria found that all were inadequate to support the company’s claim that its products maintained immune defences against the common cold.
EFSA’s ruling is being challenged by the industry, but if these appeals fail the companies will no longer be allowed to market the foods as aiding digestion or helping the immune system in future.
Nearly 60 per cent of UK households regularly buy probiotic drinks and over £200 million of them are sold every year in Britain.