Adulteration, whether by accident or on purpose, has always been a concern. Overall, the dietary supplement industry has done a respectable job of implementing protocols to prevent this from happening.
Now, three key industry entities – American Botanical Council, American Herbal Pharmocopoeia, and the National Institute for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi — have decided collectively to clarify its mission of reducing risk of adulteration by emphasizing prevention: the former Botanical Adulterants Program is now officially known as “The Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program (BAPP).
The mission of this venture is, according to a release from the American Botanical Council “to raise awareness of issues of adulteration in the herbal trade, confirm the extent of adulteration in the United States and global markets, and provide guidance on which official or unofficial analytical methods are currently available and fit for purpose to help detect the presence (or absence) of a suspected or known adulterant.”
There are many parts to the program, and one of them is the release of reports entitled “Botanical Adulterants Bulletins;” the two latest are cranberry extracts and ginkgo leaf extracts. Another effort is the creation of an industry-accepted best practice standardized operation procedure (SOP) on disposal and destruction of materials that are irreparably defective. The goal is to eliminate such materials completely from the supply chain.
Stefan Gafner, PhD, who serves both as Chief Science Officer, American Botanical Council (Texas), and Technical Director, ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Program, reported in Botanical Adulterants Monitor, a publication offered by American Botanical Council, that an investigation by the Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority (CAFIA) into the authenticity of 15 chlorella powders revealed adulteration with spirulina in two products. “Quality control of ingredients made from microalgae is challenging, and the results of the investigation highlight the importance of appropriate test methods to verify the identity of such materials,” Dr. Gafner wrote.
He also noted that researchers from Network Nutrition-IMCD in Australia reported that once again, adulteration of commercial ginkgo dietary supplements. The researchers found that six extracts contained genistein (1% or more), evidence of adulteration by Japanese sophora extract based on six extracts having genistein, Overall, 14 out of the 15 samples analyzed were deemed to be noncompliant with the requirements in USP’s monograph for ginkgo leaf extracts.
The Botanical Adulterants Monitor also includes five summaries of recently published papers looking at adulteration in several botanical products.
One study (Booker et al) investigated the authenticity and quality of St. John’s wort supplements using proton nuclear magnetic resonance and high-performance thin-layer chromatography, and established differences in the fingerprints depending on the geographical origin, i.e., material sourced in Europe or in China. The researchers also found evidence of continual adulteration of St. John’s wort with food dyes.
Another study (Ruhsam and Hollingsworth) using DNA barcoding analysis of commercial eleuthero and rhodiola dietary supplements sold in the United Kingdom show that substitution with related species from the same genus is common. Dr. Gafner commented, “It is not clear if the admixture and substitution is due to the similarity of the common names in China, from which the ingredients are most often sourced, the possible interchangeable use of plants from the genus Eleutherococcus and those within the genus Rhodiola, or if financial motivation plays a role in this.”
We at Cactus Botanics support these efforts and we encourage you to become more proactive and vigilant as well.