UNPA / IADSA | Codex Probiotics Update

Nov 1, 2023
Dear Colleagues —


Please see below an important memo sent by IADSA this morning reporting on continued efforts by an e-working group to clarify key issues with respect to probiotics and how they will be assessed and codified by Codex Alimentarius. This has global implications, and Cynthia and Simon at IADSA will continue to keep us apprised.


If this is an area of interest for your company, please make this known to us so we can call upon our member companies to provide input as this process moves forward toward an October 2024 target date for completion.






Dear Members

Proposal for new work on probiotics: Complexity & Uncertainty

Yesterday was the deadline for delegations to comment on the first consultation paper aiming to propose harmonised guidelines for probiotics.

As you are aware, an e-Working Group was created with the task of clarifying the scope of the proposal, its impact on food safety and the need for scientific advice. The aim is to refine the proposal prior to a new discussion at the Codex Committee on Nutrition in October 2024 on whether the work should proceed or not.  The following governments have commented:

Canada:  Asks if a positive list of probiotic bacteria will be part of the work. While Canada does not consider it to be priority, if it is to move forward they consider it should address health claims.

Guatemala:  General support but do not answer the questions.

Indonesia:  Request that health benefits are addressed and an evaluation is carried out of the safety and efficacy of specific probiotic strains.

Iran:  They have made some generic comments requesting the creation of a Gene Bank in each country that will localise the probiotic strains and confirm that their effects are valid.

Malaysia:  General support but do not answer the questions. Malaysia is co-Chair of the work and co-drafter of the proposal.

New Zealand:  Do not consider this topic as a high priority. However, they feel that an alternative term to ‘probiotic’ should be used for this work because existing definitions of probiotics add confusion due to their inclusion of health effects.

Nigeria: Primarily small editorial changes.

Saudi Arabia:  General support but do not answer the questions.

South Africa: Overall, they are of the view that without addressing strain-specific safety and benefit, the work will not bring much value. They are proposing that a WHO/FAO group should address the specificities of each strain and Codex labelling committee the labelling requirements.

Thailand:  General support but do not answer the questions.

USA:  Supports a harmonized definition of probiotics similar to the Codex definition of dietary fibre. Recommends that Codex asks WHO/FAO for scientific advice on this topic, specifically a systematic review of the physiological benefits of probiotics and the strains associated with these benefits that would form the foundation for probiotics with recognized physiological benefit.

These above comments have highlighted the complexity that IADSA has raised over the years about this work.  It remains to be seen whether and how Argentina, as Chair of the group, will address health claims based on the views submitted by government delegations. The proposal for review excluded health claims from its scope.

The new version of the proposal for new work is expected by the end of January. This version will be critical to define the next stage of IADSA action in this area.

Kind regards