About this site

The short version

In 2005, television adverts appeared in the UK for a yoghurt called Activia which contained “Bifidus Digestivum”.  A Google search for “Bifidus Digestivum” only turned up lots of blog posts asking “what is Bifidus Digestivum?”

After some research, it became clear that Bifidus Digestivum was simply a name for a proprietary strain of bacteria that was included in Activia, which is simply a live yoghurt like the ones people have been making for thousands of years.

It seemed worth publishing the results of that research because, if the blogs posts were anything to go by, people were interested.

The long version

The function of language used in advertising is to sell things.  This may seem an obvious statement, but unpacking it leads to some debates about ethics and the role of companies.

For example, the vast majority of people would agree that there are limits to what people can claim for their product.  To take an extreme example, an advertisement for a soft drink that claimed it would definitely cure cancer would not be allowed.

However, language has different structures of meaning other than simply taking words at face value.  The different associations between calling Activia a “live yoghurt” and saying that it has “Bifidus Regularis” in it are obvious – the second sounds scientific and / or medical, implying some kind of clinical background, even if the difference between Activia and other live yoghurts hasn’t been investigated at all (even the benefits of live yoghurts for people who are generally healthy are widely disputed).

Advertising regulators do take this kind of implication into account – Dannon was recently forced to reword its advertising because of a lawsuit in the USA – but these kinds of cases are very difficult to prove because of the nuanced nature of implying things rather than taking language at face value.

So this site is partially an investigation into the potential of the internet for giving people clear information about the contents of those implications by unpacking the implications of the phrases “Bifidus Regularis”, “Bifidus Actiregularis” and so on.

It is also simply the result of good will – giving out information that people may find useful in making choices about what to eat.

Add a comment


  • Good luck!!I enjoy them – but I’m too negligent of my own body to niotce a difference. I have had my galbladder removed, so I’m SUPPOSE TO be taking extra pro-biotics. humph.

    Posted by Carlos on 19th October 2012

  • I know that all your information was from wiki and that is lazy if you used it to try to make a resoursful wbsite. I’m sourly dissopointed in that

    Posted by Enter your name here on 16th March 2012

  • so. . . what is the difference between this type of language – for- benefit, and the same use of latin language by any ”scientific community” . . honestly, if you think about it, it’s quite the same. latin is a language that is no longer used. however, it’s used a lot, to set a pedestal on presented ”facts”.

    also, what about all the other misleading food labels. ever seen bhq? on ramen, for example. (more place that that too)… it is short for a very long, long name meaning a very short word: propane. and it’s used as a ”preservative”.

    do more research, people. and be aware of what you’re putting into your body. our fda isn’t exactly doing much in the way of clarity for health’s sake; they are a business too, while the people there ”gotta eat” too.

    Posted by regarding the phd'scomment, & dazzle's too on 20th November 2011

  • I was very pleased to read your information listed above.

    I personally agree w/you, but received $1.00 off coupons on Activia, and has been using it ever since,
    at least until my coupons run out.

    PS: Even though I totally agree with you, especially the very last comment at the end of your article, I have
    become especially fond of the peach and cereal FIBER flavor.

    Unless I find additional $1.00-off coupons, I will have to cease to buy activia, especially since its basically YOGURT!!!!! Have a BLESSED day in America.

    Posted by MisB59/Maryland on 9th May 2011

  • Being both and anatomist and an ecologist, I am very aware of what happens when one introduces a foreign species into an environment. Generally, it out competes the natural inhabitants and causes environmental degradation. Therefore, I personally, will not introduce something with such the ridiculous made-up name of “bifidus regularis” into my personal internal environment. My suggestion to those who are “irregular”, look at your diet. Add natural prebiotics and more fresh fruits and vegetables and you will be just fine.

    Posted by Lyn Russell, Ph.D. on 21st July 2010

  • You what they say, “if you can’t dazzle em with brilliants, baffle em with bullsh”t!”

    Posted by if you can't dazzle.. on 31st January 2010