Application of evidence on probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics by food industry : a descriptive study

Mugambi, Mary N. ; Young, Taryn ; Blaauw, Renee (2014-10)

The original publication is available at:

Mugambi, M.N., 2014. Application of evidence on probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics by food industry: a descriptive study. BMC Medical Education, 7(754):1-8. doi:10.1186/1756-0500-7-754.

Publication of this article was funded by the Stellenbosch University Open Access Fund.


ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study assessed how the food industry applies the knowledge and evidence gained from synbiotics, probiotics or prebiotics research in infants, on the general paediatric population. This study also explored: what happens after the clinical trials using infant formula are completed, data is published or remains unpublished; the effectiveness and type of medium the formula manufacturers use to educate consumers on probiotic, prebiotic or synbiotic infant formula. Findings: This was a descriptive study (a survey) that used a structured questionnaire. All listed companies that manufacture and / or market food products with added probiotics, prebiotics or synbiotics for infants were identified and invited to participate. People responsible for research and development were invited to participate in the survey. A letter of invitation was sent to selected participants and if they expressed willingness to take part in the study, a questionnaire with a written consent form was sent. Descriptive statistics and associations between categorical variables were to be tested using a Chi-square test, a p < 0.05 was statistically significant. A total of 25 major infant formulas, baby food manufacturers were identified, invited to participate in the survey. No company was willing to participate in the survey for different reasons: failure to take any action 5 (20%), decision to participate indefinitely delayed 2 (8%), sensitivity of requested information 3 (12%), company does not conduct clinical trials 1 (4%), company declined without further information 4 (16%), erroneous contact information 6 (24%), refusal by receptionists to forward telephone calls to appropriate staff 3 (12%), language barrier 3 (12%), company no longer agrees to market research 1 (4%). Conclusion: Due to a poor response rate in this study, no conclusion could be drawn on how the food industry applies evidence gained through probiotics, prebiotics or synbiotics research on infants for the benefit of the general paediatric population. More information and greater transparency is needed from the infant formula manufacturers on how they apply the evidence gained from the research on probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics on infants

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