It's Alive! Probiotics Are Growing for Food Processors

New research shows putting bugs in your food is a better idea than you probably thought.

By David Feder, RD, Technical Editor

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One case in point is the Dairy Balance Milk With Probiotics line from Foster Farms Dairy (www.fosterfarmsdairy.com), Modesto, Calif. Dairy Balance is one of the few probiotic-enhanced milks available. It uses Cleveland-based Ganeden Biotech Inc.'s (www.ganedenlabs.com) BC30 patented probiotic ingredient.

"BC-30 is a strain of Bacillus coagulens discovered and isolated from a parent strain in Japan in the early 1900s," explains Mike Bush, vice president of business development of Ganeden. "It was tested against other strains and optimized for food formulations by Ganeden and is one of the company's 105 probiotic patents.

"Unlike many probiotic strains, BC30 is a spore-forming organism," Bush says. "In the center of the cell is a spore that protects the genetic material against heat, pressure and freezing. It survives the high acid environment of the stomach as well as harsh manufacturing conditions."

As Bush explains, once BC30 passes the stomach and passes into the GI tract, the spores germinate and produce viable cells. "It also has knack for using a wide variety of food sources, not just the typical carbs but other sugar molecules as well as proteins," he adds. "Clinical research shows it supports digestive health and immune function."

In addition to milk and yogurts, Ganeden's BC30 has been used in chocolates, soups, muffins, protein bars, teas, ice creams and dog foods.

"For a probiotic strain to be successful, it must fulfill certain requirements or criteria that improve a probiotic's functionality in the intestine/digestive tract and enhance its survival in the product," explains Peggy Steele, global business director for Danisco USA Inc. (www.danisco.com), Madison, Wis. "These criteria include being safe for human consumption, the ability to resist acid and bile, having clinically proven health benefits and possessing technological properties that allow survival in the final consumer product.

Danisco's Howaru line meets those criteria with its trademarked L. acidophilus NCFMB. lactis HN019 and L. rhamnosus HN001 bacteria.

"For probiotics to survive processing, they should be added at a point in the process when there are no more heating steps and the product has been cooled," Steele continues. "Distribution and storage temperatures should then be in the refrigeration range. If pH can be adjusted up — typically to below 3.8 — survivability can be greatly enhanced. At lower pH levels, high overages may be necessary in order to achieve desired shelf life."

Other factors that can influence survivability include water activity (beverage dry blends are an excellent format for probiotic delivery), oxygen content, metabolic carbohydrates, mechanical stress during processing, plus impact from other additives (colors, flavors, salt, etc.) and inoculation practices.

Microencapsulation also has been gaining ground as scientists refine the technique of enclosing bacteria in protective polysaccharide (such as alginates) coatings, allowing the microbes to be used in products such as cereals, baked goods and spreads.

Probiotics can work in the mouth. Frutarom USA (www.frutarom.com), North Bergen, N.J., recently launched its Blis M18, "a patented oral cavity probiotic for complete oral protection by providing advanced protection for the mouth and teeth." Blis M18 is derived from the Staphylococcus salivarius microorganism.

In one application, a chewable tablet dissolves in the mouth to provide probiotic defense for the ears, nose and throat.

Next Foods Inc., Boulder, Colo., and its GoodBelly (www.goodbelly.com) division took the idea of patented and specialized pobiotic strains and applied it to a unique fruit drink that is similar to kefir but nondairy. It also is soy-free and loaded with probiotics and multi-vitamins. Each serving of GoodBelly an impressive 20 billion live and active probiotic cultures "clinically proven to restore the balance of gut flora in the intestinal tract and promote immunity." The product's primary probiotic is Lactobacillus plantarum 299v.

Non-dairy beverages have actually been one of the fastest growing probiotic segments over the past several years. Says Danisco's Steele, "As more consumers learn about the various health benefits of daily probiotic consumption, we'll continue to see strong demand for probiotic-fortified products across all categories."

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