The Probiotic Benefits of Fermented Hot Sauce May Be False Claims

Recent trends in food consumption include fermented foods and the health benefits behind adding them to your daily diet. Many fermented hot sauces are believed to offer some of the same health benefits as other fermented foods such as yogurt, kombucha and kimchi.

The fermentation process produces natural forming bacteria that are part of a larger group called microbes that breakdown the sugars in the hot peppers. It seems that when words like bacteria and microbes are mentioned in a food substance it could be unhealthy or harmful to your body but fermentation created beneficial bacteria.

Does fermented hot sauce provide healthy probiotics?

In the case of fermented hot sauce, the bacteria is in the form of natural probiotics (like other fermented foods) and these are considered beneficial to immune health and give the body other health benefits. MPDI states that fermented foods supply natural probiotics that are crucial for immune health. However, it is scientifically difficult to prove this for the consumption of fermented hot sauce. It difficult to prove that any fermented hot sauce contains probiotics.

A traditional hot sauce is already packed with nutrients, vitamins and minerals from the hot peppers and some spices that are used. This can be evident from the vitamin content listed on a nutritional label that is provided by an FDA (Food and Drug Administration) compliant laboratory. These hot sauces will also have very few calories and usually do not include any other ingredients that deters from having good health. According to WebMd most spices used to make hot sauce are full of “healthy plant chemicals” as well. For these reasons, and many others such as flavor, fermented hot sauce has become increasingly popular beliefs as having health benefits similar to other fermented foods.

The probiotic claims of popular fermented foods

Kombucha, fermented black tea, has become more popular due to the suggested health benefits that it provides. These claims lack research to back it up much like the claims of fermented hot sauce. There are many in the hot sauce industry who boast about the probiotics in fermented hot sauce but there is little evidence beyond that to support the claim.

One method of comparing a fermented hot sauce with a non-fermented hot sauce is by comparing the nutritional label of two different sauces.  This may be difficult to find two exact sauces but making your own could get some very accurate results. However, nutritional analysis will not provide you with a measurement of probiotics in your fermented hot sauce.

Comparing the health benefits between fermented and non-fermented hot sauce would prove very difficult to determine because food labels do not give the process in which the hot sauce is made. It is the process of fermentation that produces the “healthy” bacteria. Also, this type of content is not a food label requirement therefore it will not be evident on the packaging. Any hot sauce labeled with having probiotics is not mandated but is volunteered by the manufacturer.

A traditional hot sauce already has some health benefits to it or is considered NOT to be unhealthy. So what happens to fermented hot sauce to make it healthier to consume?

Health benefits of fermented hot sauce

Some fermented hot sauces are believed to contain probiotic bacteria that provides your body with the ability to break down foods and absorb nutrients easier. Many fermented foods DO contain probiotics. Fermentation begins to breakdown the foods being consumed so the body doesn’t need to. Some organizations suggest that the bacteria in fermented hot sauce begins the digestion process therefore making it easier to digest other food. This is a good thing.

I general, bacteria play a major role in human health and there is much research about the health benefits of probiotics, states the National Institutes of Health. When compared to raw hot peppers fermented peppers will have other nutritional characteristics as well that lead to better digestion and a boost in the body’s immunity.

What are probiotics?

By definition probiotics are micoorganisms released into the body for beneficial reasons. ( According to NCBI lactobacillus bacteria is some of the most important bacteria in the food industry and this is the bacteria that is found in the in a fermented hot sauce.

Consuming fermented hot sauce is a good source of getting the presumed probiotics into your body but it can be absorbed through other fermented foods or supplements. Consuming fermented foods or taking supplements are the only ways your body can absorb these probiotics.

The fermentation process goes through a development of lactofermentation where bacteria feed on sugars and create lactic acid due to the airless environment needed for fermentation. This lactic acid is a probiotic.

According to healthline the probiotics that fermented foods contain can help with digestive health. The article What is Fermentation? The Lowdown on Fermented Foods references a study in which yogurt improved symptoms associated with gut issues. Can fermented hot sauce provide these same probiotics?

Bacteria is a microorganism, probiotics are microorganisms, lactobacillus is a bacteria.

Probiotics are a specific strain of bacteria. In the case of fermented foods the strain of bacteria that is most common is lactobacillus. Lactobacillus is a type of good bacteria and is one of the more common ones that is found in fermented foods. The bacteria that causes fermentation is called lactillius bacteritum and is considered “good” bacteria.

How to measure hot sauce for lactobacillus

Measuring for lactobacillus in fermented hot sauce is much more complicated than purchasing a hand held meter. Lactobacillus can be in the form of supplements so there must be a way to control the amount in these doses.

Measuring and testing a fermented hot sauce for probiotics

Probiotics can be measured in the form of CFU (Colony Forming Units). Foods such as kimchi, yogurt, sauerkraut and kombucha contain probiotics much like a fermented hot sauce does. Yogurts can measure from 90 million to 500 million CFO (Harvard Health Publishing, 2020).

The measurements of CFU indicates the viable or successfully active cells. Amounts may be written as 1 X 109  for 1 billion or 1 X 1010 for 10 billion but I have never seen this labeled on a bottle of hot sauce.

Similar to nutritional analysis testing there are laboratories that can test food products for probiotic content. Eurofins can provide probiotic testing along with other testing services such as nutritional analysis and shelf life testing.

The difficulties with consuming probiotics from fermented hot sauce

A lot of fermented hot sauce needs to be consumed to receive health benefits

According to probiotics are “Living microorganisms which when administered in sufficient quantities will bring health benefits to the host”. There must be special care to keep these micoorgamisms viable and keep the quantity high until consumption.

Here is the catch to benefiting from probiotics. According to the WHO (World Health Organization) the microorganisms need to be live and administered in adequate amounts much like the statement above from Deerland. My first reaction is that an individual would need to consume a lot of fermented hot sauce to receive the health benefits that many boast fermented foods contain.

I eat hot sauce everyday and I eat it on a lot of different foods. One way to determine if the consumption of fermented hot sauce is benefiting your health or not is how you feel after eating it regularly.

Hot sauce needs to contain live organisms to receive health benefits

The second question to ask is does fermented hot sauce contain live microorganisms as the WHO (World Health Organization) suggests that would be needed to for healthy probiotic benefits. Identifying and measuring these live microorganisms is truly a scientific endeavor and is not typically done in a hot sauce.

Does fermented hot sauce contain live probiotics?

A hot sauce may need to go through more processes than fermentation to be considered having probiotics. Entire laboratories take great measures to optimize healthy bacterial growth. According to Harvard Health Publishing not all fermented foods contain probiotics. Surprise!

Also, according to National Institutes of Heath foods that are processed after fermentation do not have the same probiotics as foods that were not processed. The microbes can be killed of by baking, filtering or pasteurization. An additional article in the Washington Post states that any shelf stable fermented food would have the microbes killed off.

A low acidic environment could kill the microorganisms that make up probiotics?

The growth of probiotic cultures are sensitive to an acidic environment. Temperature and pH levels must be closely regulated throughout the fermentation process. A great deal of scientific skill is needed to manufacture a fermented hot sauce to include probiotics.

WHO Guidelines for probiotic foods

The report lays out the guidelines for foods claiming that they contain probiotics and these are typically only general claims. This guideline allows foods to be labeled with specific claims that the product provides. The report also states that a third party review the claims and these are usually a scientific laboratory.

Popular foods believed to contain probiotics

Does hot sauce have live probiotics like yogurt?

Yogurt is often on the list of foods that are high in probiotics but rarely is hot sauce listed but that is not to say that fermented hot sauce does not offer the same probiotics. Numerous research articles site sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt and other fermented foods on the list of foods containing probiotics but fermented hot sauce is not commonly found.

According to more fermented condiments are being consumed on a global level. Fermented foods such as kimchi, kombucha are increasing in sales as well as probiotic nut butters.

Cheese, pickles and sauerkraut are also found on many lists of foods that contain a high amount of probiotics. However, according to webmd fermented hot sauce is not on the list of fermented foods high in probiotics.

FDA and fermentation

The Food and Drug Administration does not approve, test or regulate fermented foods. Fermentation inhibits the growth of bacteria and bacterial toxins and produces harmless acidic bacteria. Fermentation creates an acid environment that makes a hot sauce shelf safe and stable enough to prohibit the growth of harmful bacteria.

I want to label my fermented hot sauce with “live and active cultures inside”

Regulations for stating the probiotic content are not as strict through the FDA and other regulatory agencies in the world. There are ethical best practices that manufacturers of food products that should be followed.

Labeling a sauce as having probiotics

Having a fermented hot sauce that has proven to have bacteria form can have the claim provide the health benefits that other foods containing probiotics do. Many consumers rely on reading a label to be satisfied with the probiotic content of the foods they are consuming.

In the US there are not any regulations pertaining to microbial levels and any statements made on labels are volunteered. However, there may not be much evidence based research to justify labeling foods with being containing live cultures or providing probiotics.

Many additives to food are considered “safe” per FDA Title 21 of the Code of Federal regulations part 184 (21 CFR) therefore can be included as part of the contents. Harmless lactic acid bacteria is found in many varieties of foods but may not be something that is advertised on a label.


Fermented hot sauce is generally consumed for its flavor and the addition of comments on labels claiming the probiotic contents is usually added for marketing reasons. Probiotics can be measured and consumed at quantified amounts to receive health benefits but is rarely the case for fermented hot sauce.

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