Probiotics, defined as Live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host have many attributes including the lack of adverse side effects associated with their use. While probiotics have proven benefits, the optimism associated with their use is counterbalanced by the fact that many so-called probiotic products are unreliable in content and unproven clinically. Therefore much remains to be done to gain the acceptance of the broader medical community. Recognition of the obvious product inequality and the lack of any regulatory guidelines lead to the development of Operating Standards in 2002 (FAO / WHO), that would ensure product safety, reliability and a level playing field for all companies producing probiotic products. The guidelines constitute a set of parameters required for a product / strain to be termed probiotic and also the clinically relevant steps to be followed to move probiotics closer to being embraced by the medical community. These include i) implementation of Guidelines for use of probiotics; ii) phase I, II and III clinical trials to prove health benefits that are as good as or better than standard prevention or treatments for a particular condition or disease; iii) Good Manufacturing Practice and production of high quality products; iv) studies to identify mechanism of action in vivo; v) informative / precise labelling; vi) development of probiotic organisms that can carry vaccines to hosts and / or anti- viral probiotics; vii) expansion of proven strains to benefit the oral cavity, nasopharynx, respiratory tract, stomach, vagina, bladder and skin as well as for cancer, allergies and recovery from surgery / injury.
Keywords: probiotics, prebiotics, regulatory guidelines, fao, who