A number of health claims for 'probiotic' drinks and yoghurts have been rejected by Europe's food safety watchdog.

The first assessments of existing food health claims by The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) included 523 opinions assessed by scientists, of which 180 of those were for the probiotic supplements.

Of the 180 assessed, nine were rejected for having "negative" opinions on their health claims. A further 105 were "not sufficiently characterised" and hadn't provided enough evidence of their effects, the EFSA said.

The watchdog is reviewing all health claims made for food products following the introduction of a 2006 EU law which stipulated that all medical-sounding marketing claims must be verified.

The European Commission will then consider the list drawn up by the EU committee and develop legislation which will be voted on by member states.

It is understood the manufacturers of Actimel and Yakult have submitted claims that will be considered at a later stage.

A spokesperson for Yakult said: "Yakult has submitted claims for Lactobacillus casei Shirota, a well characterised probiotic strain unique to Yakult.

"Evidence for its health benefit is based on over 70 human studies and over 70 years of research. Opinions on claims submitted for this strain are not expected until 2010."