PROBIOTICS: FOOD OR DRUGS?
Probiotics are touted as disease cures, yet they can be included as food additives in both human and pet food.
Nel Liquorman | 08|2010, TheDogPress Health Editor
It is time for the FDA to clarify this issue for consumers; are these bacteria useful drugs parading as food additives, or are they just bad food additives with absurd drug claims?
Natural pet food makers consider probiotics a vital part of their industry, often referring to them as microbials. Producers of the live bacteria and the prebiotics that feed them want both to remain in the food chain yet they are working with the health care industry to promote probiotics as cures for diseases.
Essentially probiotics are biological (living bacterium) products that feed on prebiotics, which are laboratory extracted indigestible plant fibers from food processing.
Both probiotics and prebiotics were created in laboratories and then given fancy new names. If Probiotics bacteria such as lactobacillus acidophilus, lactobacillus caesi, bifid bacterium, (not to mention yeast, fungi, and mold!) are specific digestive health aids, then according to FDA rules, they must be tested. These additives are known to cause gas, vomiting, and runny stools in pets and are reported to cause similar symptoms in humans. Prebiotics can also cause symptoms as they feed the probiotic bacteria, allowing it to multiply.
After decades of trying to kill bacteria
by cooking food, washing our hands and
trying not to spread bacteria around,
why would we consider feeding any
kind of bacteria to our pets? And
how safe is eating the prebiotics that
feed the live probiotics?
Prebiotics and probiotics are
unregulated by the FDA, even though they
produce side effects which may be
difficult to trace back to the offending
ingredient as part of the dog or cat
food. These laboratory-created
ingredients are being added to many
so-called natural cat and dog foods made
by pet food divisions of large
Consumers have been left in the dark
about probiotics, prebiotics, and many
other additives that should not be in
pet food or human food, making it
convenient for the industry to develop
marketing strategies that claim health
benefits with science to back them up.
But in Europe, such claims are being
scrutinized and the European Food Safety
Authority (EFSA) is rejecting most of
the proposed food supplement claims and
demanding the same kind of clinical
evidence which prescription medicines
The newly formed International
Probiotics Association (IPA) is
determined to keep their profitable
laboratory creations classified as GRAS
(generally regarded as safe by the FDA),
yet they continue to make claims that
probiotics can be used to treat diseases
and reduce allergic reactions.
While probiotics may show promise as an
alternative therapy in some cases, there
have been fatalities associated with
their use. In 2008, almost 300 patients
with acute pancreatitis were part of a
study at 15 hospitals in the
Netherlands. Twenty-four patients
treated with probiotics died. The
cause of death in each case was narrowed
down to one of these three reasons: use
of probiotics on gravely ill patients,
probiotics were administered through
feeding tubes into the intestines, or
patients were in the acute phase of the
disease when the bacteria was
administered. But the bottom line is
that they used probiotics and the
patients died as a result.
The time has come to question probiotics
in the food chain. They cannot be both
food and drug. Are there really more
colon diseases emerging or is that just
hype by an emerging industry for
bacteria and fibers?
It would appear to be just more
contamination for us to worry about in
the food chain. Surely we have had
enough with all the salmonella,
melamine, listeria, botulism, and ecoli
in pet food and even our own food
supply. Food processors have enough
trouble keeping visible filth out, so we
must wonder why they would consider
adding bacteria that can multiply in our
gut without anyone knowing what it is
While the FDA reviews advertising claims
by pet food manufacturers, such as
specific claims for urinary health or
hairball relief, they do this by way of
gathering data from other sources. The
catch is, FDA does not test or
regulate pet food ingredients, just
the claims that appear on the label.
This amounts to no more than controlling
truth in labeling. Important yes, but
it is not necessarily assurance that the
food is safe to eat.
The FDA Amendments Act of 2007 required
that the government establish pet food
regulations for ingredient
standards, and standards for labeling,
which are to include nutrition and
ingredient information. For now, all we
can do is avoid ingredients that may be
problematic while we wait to see if the
FDA makes any progress.
In the meantime, informed consumers will
be the driving force that brings about
long needed changes in the pet food
Ref: Food Navigator Jan 2008 Dutch Patients Die After Taking Probiotics
Ref: BBC News July 7, 2010 EU Health Food Claims Law Begins To Bite
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