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The Globe and Mail reports on the growing popularity of probiotics, described as “live organisms, usually helpful bacteria similar to those found in the human gut, that can change or restore the intestinal flora,” that are being marketed and used by consumers as a way of dealing with “candida, digestion, diarrhea, boosting brain development and boosting the immune system.”

“The surge in popularity,” the paper writes, “comes after manufacturers homed in on the category's potential benefits and began adding them to everything from yogurt, infant formula and juices to bread, chewing gum and chocolate. They can even be found in some floor cleaners and aftershaves ... But health experts say the hoopla over probiotics has overshadowed actual scientific proof that they improve health, leading to confusion for consumers deluged with claims about products containing the micro-organisms.” In addition, there are different kinds of bacteria believed to have different kinds of health benefits, which confuses consumers, confounds marketers, and concerns regulators.

The paper writes, “Regulatory agencies are trying to rein in the multi-billion dollar industry, which saw consumer spending on probiotic supplements triple in the United States between 1994 and 2003. The International Probiotics Association is planning a labelling scheme that would include a minimum bacterial count and an identification of the bacterial strain. There is also a move afoot in Europe to control the claims with regulation that demands companies produce the scientific evidence to support their labelling.”
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