Five Things You Should Know About Probiotic Testing in the Food Industry

With probiotic usage in foods on the rise, it is important that manufacturers of these goods be informed of what is needed in terms of testing. Here are five things you need to know.

What is a probiotic?

The term probiotic is used to describe a living strain (or strains) of bacteria that aid in health (FAO). Many foods that are fermented with microorganisms (i.e. bacteria and fungus) will often provide some health benefits, primarily aiding in digestion. 

Are there foods that contain these beneficial microorganisms naturally? 

Common foods that contain these beneficial bacteria and fungi include sauerkraut, kefir, tempeh, kombucha, buttermilk, yogurt and more. 

The developers of these foods may not have developed them with the specific intent of improving health. They were primarily concerned with the unique taste, smell, and mouth feel of the food. 

Are probiotics considered a drug?

If the probiotic is designed to be used as a "drug" as defined by the Us Food and Drug Administration (FDA), "an article intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease," then the FDA has oversite, the same as any drug.

If a probiotic is intended for use as a dietary supplement, it is considered in the same category as a food and as such is regulated by the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. 

A dietary supplement is defined by the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994 as a product taken by mouth that contains a "dietary ingredient" intended to supplement the diet. 

Probiotics are increasingly added to non-fermented foods such as chocolate, ice cream, juices, sauces, spreads, nut butters, infant formulae, nutrition bars, and pet foods.  

What are the regulatory requirements for the manufacturing of probiotic foods? 

Dietary supplement manufacturers are not required to gain approval from the FDA prior to bringing the product to market, but they must notify the agency of the intend of bringing the product to market. 

Manufacturers of and entities that package, distribute and/or hold dietary supplements must ensure their identity, purity, quality, strength, and composition (21 CFR Part 111 June 2007).

Partnering with Element

As a food producer, food quality and safety testing is critical to ensure you are producing safe, quality food sources for the public. At Element, we provide microbiological and chemical-based food testing to help ensure you meet regulatory requirements and exceed quality expectations. Let Element's expert Microbiologists and Food Scientists help you develop and achieve your food testing goals. For more information about our probiotic testing for food or other food testing services, connect with an expert today. 


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James Black joined Element in June 2021 as the Technical Director of Food Microbiology. Element’s customers benefit greatly from James’ expertise in food microbiology, food safety, food plant sanitation, food plant environmental testing, HACCP, FSMA, product shelf-life testing, challenge study design, sanitary design of food processing equipment, and process validation. James holds a B.S. in Biology from Mount Vernon Nazarene University. Throughout his career, James has worked within the food, cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries, and has over nine years’ experience in third-party microbiological testing.

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