Probiotics have massive potential to boost health outside of their traditional role in the gastro-intestinal system Fabienne Saadane-Oaks told NutraIngredients.com at Food Ingredients Europe last week Already the development of probiotics has come along in leaps and bounds over the past decade as early restrictions - mainly to do with the sensitivity of strains to temperature - have led the bacteria out of the yoghurt pot and into products such as chocolate. Further research into strain stability means "potentially there are no applications it can't be added to" Saadane-Oaks said. Moreover, she said that probiotics could be used to help boost health in any area of the body which has microflora. "There are still more connections being made between microflora and probiotics." In the area of the urinary tract, for example, there is a "lot still to be discovered," she said. Danisco has just launched a new probiotic aimed at children and the respiratory tract, a move which consolidates two trends in the probiotic market - products aimed at children and in areas outside of gastrointestinal health. Beverages are soon to be the next big probiotic vehicle, she said, as already manufacturers have found ways to add probiotics to previously unthought-of-foods such as chocolate. "We didn't expect this when we first set out." Barry Callebaut last month launched a probiotic confectionery bar in collaboration with Lal' Foods, claiming that chocolate is a better carrier of intestinal good bacteria than more traditional dairy products. Danisco's Howaru range is branded as 'premium' because it is supported by a wealth of science and is already expanding into previously lesser-known areas for probiotics. The latest development for the line was showcased last week at FIE under the brand name Howaru Protect. This probiotic formulation is aimed at reducing cold and flu symptoms in children under five, and has been supported by research, announced at the European Paediatric Motility Meeting in London. Some 248 children at day centres in Shanghai, China, were given a daily dose of Howaru Protect during the winter months, and Danisco said the number of sick days were almost halved and antibiotic prescriptions fell by 80 per cent. "When I look at the whole area of the immune system, that is where probiotics have a great role to play," Saadane-Oaks said. However, while the science and processing behind future developments is coming along rapidly, there is still one hurdle which needs to be overcome. "There is a lot of work to be done in the understanding of probiotics and what they can do, but one of the challenges is still one of consumer understanding," Saadane-Oaks said. This can be addressed by companies actively targeting both end-users and those higher up in the chain, such as doctors and dieticians. But this may also be addressed by the forthcoming health claims regulation. "We think this is welcomed by the food industry," she added. Under the EU health claims regulation, businesses wishing to make a claim relating to the role of a nutrient have to submit an application supporting the claim with scientific evidence. These would then be assessed by the European Food Safety Authority. The claims must also be understood by the average consumer.