Scientific Steering Committee, Biological Hazards
Report no: 2009: 14
The Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety (VKM) concludes that although some beneficial effects have been reported in some patient groups, the adverse effects that have been observed are well documented, thus indicating that probiotic bacteria should not be consumed by critically ill patients.
Recently published scientific articles on the use of probiotics on hospital patients have shown that probiotics can give negative health effects.
On the basis of a request from Stavanger University Hospital (SUH), the Norwegian Food Authority has asked VKM to do a risk assessment on the use of probiotics or products containing probiotics among specific groups of hospital patients.
In addition, VKM has assessed the use of probiotics on critically ill people who are cared for outside the hospital, for instance cancer patients and other immunocompromised individuals.
VKM established an ad hoc group with experts in this field, and the group’s report has been evaluated and approved by the Scientific Steering Committee of VKM.
There is no evidence of beneficial effect by supplement of probiotics on critically ill hospitalized patients with diseases such acute pancreatitis, antibiotics associated diarrhea, Clostridium difficile infection and non-alcoholic-fatty-liver-disease.
VKM has also assessed the use of probiotics on critically ill children, for instance children in intensive care, and patients with diarrhea, Helicobacter pylori infection, inflammatory bowel disease, urogenital infections, and patients with increased bacterial growth in the small intestine.
VKM concludes that although some positive health effects have been reported for some patient groups, especially with rotavirus associated diarrhea, the adverse effects that have been observed are well documented, thus indicating that probiotic bacteria should not be consumed by critically ill individuals.
The VKM Panel on biological hazards and the Panel on nutrition, dietetic products, novel food and allergy were responsible for this assessment.