Dutch food agency says probiotics are safe

By Alex McNally

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Death

The Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (VWA) has said
there is no danger in taking probiotic dairy drink - but is
planning to release details on possible consequence of the bacteria
on vulnerable groups.

Last week it was revealed that 24 people died after being given probiotics to treat acute pancreatitis in a study organized by the University Medical Centre in Utrecht VWA's announcement will help give reassurance to consumers who may have been scared off from taking probiotics in the wake of the Dutch trial. A spokesperson for the agency said there were lots of healthy people who took probiotics with no adverse effects. He added that the authority is carrying out ongoing research, and plans in the next few months to release details on whether adding probiotics to food has any possible consequences for vulnerable groups. The study at the centre of the deaths was carried out between 2004 and 2007, after smaller tests had indicated that probiotics could help reduce the rate of infection in the pancreas. Two hundred and ninety-six patients with acute pancreatitis - a rare and very serious disease - took part in the study across 15 hospitals in the Netherlands. Twenty-four died in the study group and nine died in the control group. Probe ​An investigation is being carried out to establish the cause of death of the patients who were given probiotics. Three possible causes have been outlined - the use of probiotics on intensive-care patients; administering probiotics through feeding tubes into the intestine; and using the friendly bacteria in the acute phase of the disease. The European Food and Feed Cultures Association (EFFCA), which represents manufacturers of probiotic strains, said it is paying "serious attention​" to the study and is awaiting the official publication of the findings. An EFFCA spokesperson said: "All the probiotic strains marketed by EFFCA members have a long history of safe use both in food and dietary supplements and have been assessed in terms of safety studies.​"To our knowledge, probiotic clinical studies had never resulted in the degradation of the health condition before. On the contrary, many health promoting benefits from probiotics have been scientifically demonstrated." Acute pancreatitis is defined by rapid inflammation of the pancreas and in about five per cent of case can be fatal if complications occur. Approximately 2 in every 100,000 people in the UK have acute pancreatitis every year.

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