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That wonderful taste of bacteria

india Updated: Jan 31, 2007 00:09 IST

Till now, many Americans would have considered the humble yogurt an unlikely candidate for spreading a spanking new food culture in their country. But apparently, that’s what American food makers plan to do as they get set to launch a whole new range of probiotic foods. This  follows the success of the Dannon company’s Activia, a yogurt line that is filled with live bacteria, which aid regularity.

While such probiotic foods, containing bacteria with a beneficial health effect, have built up an excellent international reputation as major health remedies, US health authorities have remained bleakly unimpressed with such a label. As a result, the only probiotics familiar to Americans have been those normally associated with fermented dairy products that are used as dietary supplements. After all, isn’t the word ‘bacteria’ associated with things that are harmful? That misconception may soon change as more and more companies take after Activia and produce refrigerated, fermented milks containing probiotic bacteria, boldly labelling them as dietary supplements. And while at it, these companies could well take a leaf out of our own desi dahi. Ayurvedic writings dating back to 6,000 BC indicate that regular consumption of dairy products led to a long and healthy life. No wonder we continue to make the milk of almost every animal, from camels to yaks, into cultured foods, including hundreds of varieties of yogurt and cheese.

Although probiotics has yet to become a household name in India, its popularity in therapy has evidently increased dramatically of late. In gastroenterology, for instance, lactobacillus sporogenes formulations are used for various indications like diarrhoea, constipation, lactose intolerance, dyspepsia and colitis. All we need to do now is to hardsell them.