First health claim in sight for vitamin B12 probiotic

Probiotics are defined as live micro-organisms that benefit their host

The first probiotic to gain a health claim from the EU has moved a step nearer, after a Dutch firm claimed it had managed to modify bacteria to produce substantial amounts of vitamin B12.

An upgraded strain of Propionibacterium freudenreichii W200 has been produced that now contains adequate amounts of vitamin B12 to make a European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) approved health claim, Winclove Probiotics said.

So far, EFSA has rejected all submitted health claims for probiotics. The upgraded Propionibacterium freudenreichii W200 would be the first strain with an approved health claim.

Eight health claims

Eight EFSA health claims related to vitamin B12 could now be made, Winclove said.

These included: benefits to the nervous system, metabolism, psychological function, red blood cell formation, the immune system, a reduction in tiredness and fatigue, and the process of cell division.

“Stringent probiotic regulations drive the market to innovation. We have succeeded in optimising the fermentation process of Propionibacterium freudenreichii W200 in such a way that it now produces substantial amounts of vitamin B12,” said Marco van Es, director of business development at Winclove.

‘A health benefit on the host’

Probiotics are defined as “live micro-organisms which ... confer a health benefit on the host”, according to the World Health Organisation.

Although this definition has been widely adopted, EU regulators continue to forbid the use of the word ‘probiotic’ on products, as it embedded a non-validated health claim.

Vitamin B12 is involved in the metabolism of every cell in the body. It is produced through a bacterial fermentation-synthesis.

Propionibacteria are already known for producing the vitamin, albeit in small amounts.

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