Scientific names vs trade names for probiotic strains : Probiotic-Foods blog

Scientific names vs trade names for probiotic strains

by Martin Macouzet, Ph. D. on 10/01/12

What is regarded as good marketing by many business people seems to be an unacceptable aberration for most scientists and a deceiving selling ploy for consumers’ associations.   Who is right?

Several companies have trademarked particular probiotic strains giving them Latinized and hence scientific sounding names that suggest they are naturally associated with certain health benefits. Accordingly, we have witnessed the appearance of names such as Lactobacillus reuteri Protectis, L. reuteri Prodentis, L. casei defensis, Bifidus ProDigestis, Bifidus regularis or Bifidus digestivum among others.

Consumers are very confused about probiotics. They do not understand why so many health benefits are attributed to these organisms; why there are so many names for probiotics and why those names are so complicated and hard to pronounce. Allegedly, “re-baptising” probiotic strains with suggestive names could help consumers identifying them and associating them with the potential health benefit they are supposed to impart, thus contributing to consumer awareness and education.  On the other hand, this approach is tantamount to making a health claim and consumers may be misled to believe that the trade name is the scientific name, which lends what may be underserved legitimacy to the implied claim. Moreover, this practice makes it more complicated for consumers and even for health practitioners to associate the “re-baptised” strains with what is reported in scientific or popularization literature.

These trade names have another function in some specific cases; i.e. masking certain species names that could apparently give a dissuasive impression to consumers. The classic example is Bifidobacterium animalis, which might supposedly be rejected thinking that it is “from” or “for” animals. Some consider this as a ridiculous excuse, but since scientific names are often associated with the original source of the microorganisms, some potential probiotics could eventually carry any of the following names: salivarius, vaginalis, fornicalis or faecalis among other names that are not precisely tempting.

 What do you think? Should this practice be fomented or abolished?

Ref: Macouzet, M (2012). Alternatives for communicating the health benefits of probiotics.

Probiotic Intelligentsia 1(2):15-27, ISSN 1929-2503

http://www.idpf-idap.com/En-articles-1-2-2012.html

Comments (5)

1. M. L. Chikindas said on 10/1/12 - 10:05AM
In my humble opinion, using "trade" names is an extremely dangerous path so far successfully exercised by numerous companies, including and, perhaps, spearheaded by the notoriously known Danone/Dannon. "Trade" name is yet another way of fooling and misleading the consumers who are challenged by the differences in the name on the label and the name of a microorganism reported in scientific literature. This must be stopped.
2. B. Kay said on 10/1/12 - 10:20AM
The latter. A spade is a spade.
3. Lone said on 10/3/12 - 07:26AM
It should be the scientific name and preferable with a designation to identify the specific strain as that might be important if linked to indicated benefits. A lot of big commercial companies mask the origin of strains trying to be “special”, which confuses the picture of probiotic strains and the benefits. But how can they take over-price or make special claims if a lot of competitors write Bf. animal ssp. lactis BB-12 as they all buy them from Chr. Hansen?
4. M. Macouzet said on 10/3/12 - 08:58AM
Thank you Lone, this is an interesting point. The need of differentiating from other brands while using the same commercial probiotic seems to be a good reason to trademark certain strain. However, the question remains, do the supporting reasons counterbalance the adverse effects of this practice?
5. Anonymous said on 10/3/12 - 03:17PM
Should we take the chance to question the "Homo sapiens" scientific name for our own species? Some of us could argue it discriminates against women (or that not everybody is really all that "sapiens")....


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​A legitimate and powerful approach to communicating the health benefits of probiotic foods to consumers. It can be adoped even in the absence of an approved health claim. 
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Probiotic Intelligentsia, 1(1):2012