Guest article

Probiotic crusades and other energetic and organized campaigns concerning probiotic issues

By George Paraskevakos, Executive Director of the International Probiotics Association

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / Tomwang112
© Getty Images / Tomwang112
Despite the connotation of medieval military expeditions when one speaks of crusades, the one which IPA has taken on the last year has not resulted into any blood being spilt. On the contrary, the probiotic crusades have been constructive, open and accepting of many stakeholders within our sector.

Thankfully my expeditions were in flying birds of tubular shape and aluminum form and not horse drawn carriages, which has allowed for IPA to spread the good word about probiotics quicker and with far more reaching effects.

An important initiative was completed this year – a formal IPA strategy for our future. We completed our strategic direction where the IPA board has agreed to focus on four key pillars:
1) Championing Standards and Guidelines,
2) Be the recognized probiotic authority for regulatory bodies globally,
3) Increase the awareness and knowledge of probiotics to HCP’s, government agencies, and trade, and
4) Be a platform of interaction by fostering networking and exchange opportunities for the sector.  

Visibility and awareness across many outlets has been the order of this past year, hence addressing one of our main strategic pillars. IPA has been called upon to help develop the probiotic programs for many of our media collaborators workshops and conferences. Additional to this we also have held our own regulatory workshops and chaired many programs. Of course, the jewel in the crown has been the IPA world congress in partnership with the Probiota’s conference, which surpassed 300 attendees this past June in San Francisco​!

The IPA’s Probiotic Resource Center was also back this year, for a first time in Vitafoods Geneva and returned at the SSW show in Las Vegas; where in both cases IPA had bigger footprint and preferred locations with very high visibility and running presentations over the show days within the PRC. Additional to trade shows we have had IPA committee representatives speak at many meetings around the world; Bogota, Boston, Geneva, São Paolo, and Shanghai to name but a few.  

IPA Committee achievements

Another key focus area was championing standards and guidelines alongside being the regulatory reference for probiotic stakeholders including government agencies globally. This kept the different IPA committees quite busy in developing this key focus pillar.

We started the year with publishing probiotic labelling guidelines​, and then met with FDA to discuss our position on labelling, review the IPA’s NDI position we submitted which subsequently   included the introduction of a probiotic safety list. On the Health Canada side, we attended several HC stakeholder meetings in view of the proposed guideline changes for natural health products and submitted our position statement to these proposals.

We also submitted IPA’s position statement to Anvisa in Brazil, on their proposed changes to the dietary supplement guidelines and more specifically how they pertain to probiotics. This was followed up by a face-to-face meeting, which will allow us to continue to dialogue and meet with Anvisa once the revised draft guidance is published.

IPA Europe (with offices in Brussels) has maintained constant outreach activities and contacts with EFSA, Members of Parliament, the European Commission and Member States in regards to the continuous and ongoing context probiotics face within the European boundaries. 

In the latter part of the year, we held our probiotic regulatory workshop in Washington​, where we presented new work in the matter of probiotic manufacturing guidelines. In line with labelling these manufacturing guidelines and best practices will continue to form the IPA’s complete quality guideline for probiotics. These manufacturing best practices are expected to be finalized in early 2018.

George P IPA screenshot 2
George Paraskevakos, IPA

Since IPA also has NGO status at the Codex level, the last work of the year allowed us to attend the Codex committee meeting for Nutrition and Food for Special Dietary Uses (CCNFSDU 39). IPA submitted a request and was able to get on the agenda, to initiate a discussion for new work in harmonizing probiotics guidelines at a global level. The proposal was approved with consensus of participating countries and Argentina accepted to prepare the proposal document, with IPA’s support for the next CCNFSDU session.

Before closing out there are a couple of items I would like to underline. A big shout out needs to go to Elisa Fernandez who closed out her first year at IPA in December. As IPA’s Director of Member Relations and Communications, she has certainly been my dependable support system.

Additionally, IPA increased another 50% in new member companies, and we have close to 100 companies for 2017. Our membership comes from 26 countries worldwide from five continents.  IPA had 42 member companies when I accepted the challenge to lead the organization in April 2015, so this is testament to where our industry is headed and the importance of all the work IPA is conducting for the probiotic industry globally!

The year has certainly flown by (pun intended); it seems like only yesterday I was writing up the 2016 year in review. My blue-sky dream of global harmonization in the probiotic sector still seems far away but in an embryonic way is slowly beginning to take shape. I thank all of IPA’s member companies and collaborators for their support in supporting my objective and determination to continue elevating IPA’s global awareness as the probiotic industry’s voice.

Wishing all my friends family and acquaintances a merry holiday season and definitely a healthy 2018.

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