The beneficial effects of food with added live micro-organisms (probiotics) on human health and nutrition have been increasingly recognized by health professionals. Recent scientific work on the properties and functionalisty of living micro-organisms in food suggest that probiotics play an important role in immunological, digestive and respiratory functions, and could have a significant effect in alleviating infectious disease in children and other high-risk groups.
In view of the growing poularity of probiotic foods, and the lack on international consensus on the methodology to assess their efficacy and safety, FAO and WHO initiated work to examine the scientific evidence on the functional and safety aspects of probiotics in food.
A Joint FAO/WHO Expert Consultation on the Health and Nutritional Properties of Powder Milk with Live Lactic Acid Bacteria was convened in 2001, and an expert working group in 2002 developed Guidelines for the Evaluation of Probiotics in Food, to identify and define what data need to be available to accurately substantiate health claims.
These reports provide scientific advice in relation to the safety assessment of probiotics, general guidance for their for their evaluationand on specific questions in relation to their pathogenicity, toxigenicity and allergenicity, as well as to their functional and nutritional properties.