According to FAO – quoted as the Key reference - Probiotics are live microorganisms, which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host (FAO 2001).

When combined with the specifications outlined by the FAO/WHO Working Group for the Evaluation of Probiotics in Food (2002), the key aspects of this definition include:
- A probiotic must be alive when administered
- A probiotic must have undergone controlled evaluation to document health benefits in the target host
- A probiotic must be a taxonomically defined microbe or combination of microbes (genus, species and strain level)
- A probiotic must be safe for its intended use.

While the definition of probiotics has evolved throughout the years, and even now slight changes occur in scientific papers according to the aims of the authors, the most recent and accepted definition states that probiotic microorganisms are “living microorganisms, which upon ingestion in adequate amounts exert health benefits beyond inherent general nutrition” (From FAO working group 2002).

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