Regardless of whether scientists accept there is cast-iron proof that the bacteria in cultures are good for you or not, there are sufficient people who believe they are, based on folklore that developed before food manufacturers started marketing 'probiotic' or based on their own experience, to justify continued use of the label to allow consumers to choose. Hardly a day goes by without media revelations on the health benefits or otherwise of specific foods.
Any food containing antioxidants is elevated to superfood status, without necessarily knowing about the bioavailability of its antioxidants. But there are many people who would still like to be informed so that they can make their own choices, based on folklore, gut feel, or otherwise.
Could be harmful
The effects of any individual's diet on their state of health is such an imprecise science and there are so many unknowns that it does not make sense to apply overzealously strict science in certain aspects. In this instance where a particular group of scientists don't accept that it has been proved beyond all reasonable doubt that probiotic bacteria increase the level of healthy bacteria in the gut. If sufficient consumers believe that it does them good, who is EFSA to say that people who want to know should not be allowed to be informed? Particularly when there is no risk of harm from eating the bacteria or the food in question. You could go so far as to say that consumers have a right to know, just as they have a right to know whether food contains substances that could be harmful, such as trans fats.
It is ironic that, at a time when the food industry is beset with requirements to add more labels particularly containing information about constituents that might be bad for you, in this regard the industry is being directed to remove labelling of ingredients that might be good for you.
Some Member States have been reported as saying the 'probiotic' claim ban should include the simple naming of the bacteria in the cultures. For example, 'contains xx bacteria' because, they argue, this would be the same as saying 'probiotic'. What would happen if it was discovered that a probiotic culture that wasn't allowed to be named was an allergen? It would have to be declared. But would that also be a claim? Ask EFSA.
Provision Trade Federation