The authority released a 'Nutrition and Claims Handbook' on Friday (March 19th) which, translated into English, informs that an application has been made to the European Commission for use of the term “probiotics” as a generic descriptor and this application is still being processed.
It adds that to avoid having to place health claims on hold until further notice, the term “probiotics” may continue to be used in the country until the European Commission makes a statement about this.
A generic descriptor is traditionally used to indicate a property of a category of foodstuffs or drinks that can have an effect on health
In addition to this, the guidance says the term "probiotics" can be used in mandatory label information for the indication of the categories of micronutrients or substances that characterise the good in food supplements.
Providing some background for this decision, the handbook points out that Regulation (EU) 2019/343 includes certain generic descriptions that may be used.
For the Netherlands, “cough sweets” and “throat lozenges” are allowed for confectionery containing extracts of herbs, fruits or other vegetable substances, contains honey or malt and word "tonic" may be used for a non-alcoholic carbonated drink containing quinine in the form of aromas.
This news comes just weeks after Denmark's Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries promised to work with Spain and other EU countries in an aim to change EU regulation to allow use of the word “probiotic” on labels across the board.
Country specific regulation changes such as this seem to be gaining speed, especially after Spain approved use of the term at the end of last year, reasoning its decision by pointing out that several countries in the EU allow the term and for others not to goes against the Mutual Recognition Principle.
During NutraIngredients' virtual Probiota event last month (February 2021), Dr Luis Gosalbez, managing director at the Spanish business development consultancy Sandwalk BioVentures, revealed that seven EU Member States (Spain, Italy, Greece, Bulgaria, Poland, the Czech Republic and Malta) are friendly towards use of the term “probiotic” on food labels, subject to different conditions.
With the Netherlands changing its stance, this means that 30% of EU countries now allow use of the term.
He told NutraIngredients: "We believe Spain's decision to allow the use of the term "probiotic" less than a year ago has given more visibility to a problem that has been there for a long time - and may have also triggered a bit of a domino effect."
George Paraskevakos, executive director at IPA, also pointed out that the rapid growth of the e-commerce has turned these differing regulations into somewhat of a farce. Lumina Intelligence data shows that $108 million of probiotics were bought online by consumers in the EU (excluding UK) in 2019 with nearly 80% including health claims on pack or on their website.