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Probiotic Part 2 of Marketplace Tests

6 Jul


I’m passionate about probiotics.’ Dr Gregor Reid, University of Western Ont

To sort it all out, the World Health Organization asked Reid and other international scientists to hammer out guidelines. Last year they came up with a probiotic code of conduct. “They have to be live, they have to be given in the right amount and they have to be shown to confer a health benefit,” says Reid.It takes two types of live bacteria to turn milk into yogurt. The little cups of yogurt then spend the afternoon in a warm room where the bacteria works its magic – and at least some of that bacteria stays alive on the grocery shelf.Probiotics go to work in the digestive system helping people who can’t digest milk to get some benefit from yogurt. But they’re quickly killed off by stomach acid. So some yogurt manufacturers add tougher reinforcements that can survive.The label on your yogurt container will say something like “active yogurt cultures.” But manufacturers can say whatever they want on those containers. That’s because there are no Canadian government regulations on how much live bacteria there should be, and no rules on what labels have to tell us about quantity.CBC MARKETPLACE: FOOD » PROBIOTICS
Testing bacteria levels
Broadcast: September 9, 2003 | Reporter: Kelly Crowe; Producer: Maxine Sidran; Researcher: Louisa Jaslow
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The big blue blob in front – probiotics

Marketplace chose four popular yogurt brands and two types of capsules. We had a lab test each product twice. The first time, we took products fresh off the shelf to see how much live bacteria was there. The second time, we took products near the end of the shelf life to see if the counts had fallen. Our results? The products did contain live bacteria just as they claimed. But is it enough bacteria to have a probiotic effect? Scientists say that for real fighting power, products should have somewhere between one million and one billion live bacteria fighters.Detailed test resultsCapsules

The two supplements we tested

The Swiss label said 6 billion live cultures per capsule on the label. But our first test showed a fraction of that — 1.7 billion. Two weeks later, millions more bacteria died, leaving just 460 million still alive. Swiss broke its own promise of 6 billion per capsule.Udo’s Choice promised, and delivered, more than one billion in the first test. But on the follow-up test, just 692 million bacteria remained alive. So both brands fell below their claims.“This is particularly disheartening,” Reid said. “You’re getting a massive drop in viability, even within two weeks. You’ve picked two products but you could have picked 10 or 15 and, according to European studies, you’d find the same kind of results where you get a drop off in viability.”YogurtsScientists say there should be one million to one billion active cultures per gram to be probiotic. Astro BioBest started with the most – 794 million live bacterial cultures per gram. But near the end of shelf life, almost two-thirds had died. That’s still in the ballpark.Organic Meadow and Danone stayed above the million mark on each test.“They claim to have active cultures, in which case their claims are correct,” Reid noted.Liberty fared the worst on our test, starting off low at just 118,000 live bacterial cultures per gram — and dropping to just 4,000 after two weeks. Reid believes there’s not much probiotic benefit in that.“I can’t imagine that you’d have any health benefit when you’re getting 400 or 3,000 organisms,” Reid said.Marketplace asked all the manufacturers for interviews. Only Danone agreed. In our test, their yogurt did well.We wanted to talk about the growing business of probiotics. Currently, Danone’s yogurt contains just basic bacteria. The company says Canadians just aren’t ready to embrace bacteria in their food – even if it is good for them.“By talking about bacteria, you generate a certain kind of fear concerning the product. So we are talking about live active cultures.”Danone says it wants to expand the types of active cultures in its Canadian yogurt, but first the company has to convince Ottawa to change its labelling rules so it can market the health value of that bacteria right on the label. It’s currently against the law to make a specific health claim about probiotics on the package.Healthy skepticism?Our test results were bad news for Vito Puglisi and his family. Liberty is one of the brands they use. “I’m always skeptical. I never take anything at face value,” Vito says.Vito will be getting some help soon from Ottawa. In early summer, new rules on Natural Health Products take effect – by law, the claim on the label will have to match the bacteria level inside the bottle. But for yogurt, nothing will change. If the label does not make a specific health claim, the bacteria level will not be regulated.

Detailed test resultsWe tested two supplement products and four yogurt products for live active cultures. Supplements: 1) Swiss Capsule
Claim: 6 billion active cultures
First test
1.7 billion
Second test
460 million
2) Udo Capsule
Claim: 1 billion viable cells
First test
2.1 billion
Second test
692 million
Yogurt:1) Liberty
Claim: Contains active acidophilus and bifidus
First test
Second test
2) Organic Meadow
Claim: Contains active yogurt cultures
First test
100 million
Second test
6 million
3) Astro Biobest
Claim: Contains Acidophilus and Bifidobacterium
First test
794 million
Second test
260 million
4) Danone
Claim: Contains active yogurt cultures
First test
180 million
Second test
120 million

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