Probiotic and preboiotic industry players must do more to get consumers on their side in the fight with regulators in the US and EU, and should also be doing more to help save lives in Africa, according to Professor Gregor Reid.
Speaking to more than 200 industry leaders and academic experts in the room at the Probiota 2014 event in Amsterdam this week, chairman Professor Reid said there are four things that are critical for human life: air, water, food and bacteria.
"Like it or not, we each carry 3-5 pounds of bacteria," said Reid. "We're microbes, get used to it regulators."
Indeed, he commented that the main problem for industry now is not in science or marketing, but in making positive changes in regulations. "There is a place in this for every single person in this room, and also the regulators who probably are not in this room."
"We're all in it together."
Reid, of the University of Western Ontario, and is Chair of Human Microbiology and Probiotics at the Lawson Health Research Institute in Canada, said he would like to see industry take a number of steps to help the current situation, starting with up-scaling R&D efforts outside the EU and USA.
"This may include new social business models in Africa," he said - suggesting that industry should look towards acting responsibly in areas that would benefit from probiotic supplementation in such areas.
The Probiota chairman also suggested that after doing this, firms should produce adverts which categorically state that products available - and helping people - in Africa and other areas will not be available in the EU or the USA - with firms spelling out how this will impact jobs, the economy and health.
"You probably think I'm crazy," he said. "Consumers love probiotics ... imagine if they couldn't get it."
"You take away something that people want, you might finally get them [the regulators] to pay attention"
Getting personal with regulators
Reid commented that probiotic players also need to 'get personal' when it comes to regulators by identifying the people blocking progress and pointing out their lack of qualifications.
"Demonstrate at their homes and offices," he stated. "What do you think happened with AIDS. This is what they did, they is how they protested.
"Americans were dying while waiting on lists for AIDs drugs. Nothing would have happened if these people hadn't have gone to the streets."
"This is scandalous, what they are doing. Get personal," he said. "We're doing nothing, we don't even demonstrate."
The Scottish-born probiotic expert said industry must identify the children dying from diarrhoea, malnutrition and necrotizing enterocolitis - all of which are conditions that probiotics have solid data to show a benefit.
"Get the public to demand reform," he said.
Indeed, Professor Reid noted that in a previous interview with NutraIngredients, he was asked whether you can really compare the situation with probiotics to campaigns for AIDs drugs.
"Have you looked at the statistics on mortality in children, that could be prevented by probiotics. It is life and death."
He said that when it comes to necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) for example, the data clearly shows that probiotics are effective, and that drugs are simply not as effective as a probiotic.
"You won't find a drug that is that effective," he said. "And it isn't part of mainstream healthcare in Canada of the US.
"That's scandalous, and it shouldn't be allowed."
In to Africa...
"Is not about time we tried in Africa?" Reid questioned - noting that infant and maternal life expectancy due to malnutrition and associated diseases is the highest in the world.
"It's the one thing that probiotics can contribute to, but none of you are there. And if we are there its minor products for people who can afford them."
"Basically, we're not there as a business. Why are we not there? What's your excuse."
Reid addresses the industry and researchers in his opening speech at Probiota 2014
He commented that the industry needs to start looking at the world in a different way - suggesting that money can be made in Africa while also helping to battle malnutrition.
"You better believe that if you get in to Africa as a company, and act responsibly, there is money to be made," said Reid.
"It's ironic that Coca Cola is cheaper than water, so Coke must be making money in Africa, but sadly that's not an industry that I want to get to Africa."
"What's your excuse."