Monday, March 06, 2006

Magical Yogurt, Bacteria of Mystic Origin

After my bout with the intestinal virus, in the interest of soothing the insides into some semblance of normality, I bought a box of Optimum Zen cereal (it DID promise "inner harmony" -- okay, so maybe that wasn't quite what they meant, but it does taste good in an unusually gingery way) and tried a new product, Activa Yogurt. The label promised that it had special bacteria made to "regulate" your digestive system. If you go to their website, you can watch a lady in a green suit do what used to be called "the hoochy-koochy" across the room because, presumably, she feels so amazingly good after eating the yogurt.

Eating the stuff for a few days really does "reduce transit time" as the label so delicately puts things. Curious about why that might be, I tried to find more information about their star player in their lineup of probiotics (fancy name for "nice bacteria"), Bifidus Regularis. The one teensy little slightly disturbing thing in all the smooth berry taste and lovely nature-green packaging is the tiny "TM" after the name of this organism.

Dannon is very cagey about what Bifidus Regularis (don't forget the TM mark) is, except a strain of probiotic bacteria that were "selected" by "specialists" at Dannon. Now, to the best of my knowledge, the only organisms that bear a TM mark after their scientific names, the only organisms that can be trademarked, period, are genetically modified organisms. I could be wrong about that. This could be a strain specially picked out of culture after culture. But can something that exists in nature be patented? There is something I should find out more about.

Now, I'm not fanatically opposed to GMOs myself, but I know some folks are, and personally, I'd like to know more about what it is that I'm eating and why this particular food has this particular "transit time" effect. Currently there are those in the American political scene who would like to actually reduce the information on food labels, with the presumptuous and patronizing excuse that people might be "confused" by too much information. In this context, "confused" translates to "informed about things they might be worried about." So I have no high hopes that Dannon's labels nor even their website might carry more information about their bacterial superstar than what is there already.

Dannon "specialists" care to comment?

Yah, I didn't think so.

UPDATE: Found a PDF on the website aimed at health professionals that has a better explanation of what bifidobacterium can do for "transit time," here: For Health Care Professionals. It also has some cute little graphs to summarize Dannon's own studies on Bifidobacteria animalis DN-173 030 (the little numbers after the scientific name inspire such confidence, do they not?). But it still doesn't explain why Bifidus Regularis has a trademark symbol by it.


Anonymous said...

There's a deconstruction of the term and its taxonomical genesis here:

Anonymous said...

Isn't Bifidus Regularis just a big FART?????

Anonymous said...

One can TM a natural substance if it is carried in a propietary blend, formulation, or administration system. For example, many of the SSRIs have had their patents extended because their respective drug company came out with a sustained release formulation.

Anonymous said...

someone has been posting the link on all the blogs discussing this: I believe this is one of danon's marketers as the site is obviously sponsored by Danon to fend off those curious about whether or not the 'bifidobacteria' in activia is natural occuring or altered a bit by the company. Obviously, any company that claims it can help the digestion of anyone, no matter what their diet, has done a little something unnatural to their concoction. Just ask Danon if its 100% natural - they won't answer. They will tell you its 'safe' and has been approved by the FDA. (big deal)
On a second note, the product is loaded with sugar - fructose syrup and sugar are in the top three ingredients.