Californian raw materials supplier BDS Natural Products has added a new H2O Express steam-based system to its Natural Products Sterilization Services, which it says will shorten lead times for its customers.
The H2O Express system is said to utilizes new technology that allows steam to rapidly penetrate the material and transfer the heat throughout it.
"With the demand for all natural products increasing in both the nutraceutical and food categories, we saw the addition of this steam sterilization unit as an essential element to meet the needs of our customers," said Shauna Walker, director of sales and marketing.
BDS' line of products that are treated naturally is to include botanical powders, teas, tea blends, spices and seasoning blends.
In the US, irradiation has been a widely accepted manufacturing practice since 1963. The irradiation process exposes foods to ionizing radiation that kills insects, moulds, and up to 99 per cent of pathogens. Although upheld by many as a safe process, the regulatory story on irradiation is inconsistent across the globe.
This has meant that herbal extractors who want to market their wares on an international basis are seeking other ways to guarantee quality and safety.
Other US suppliers who have communicated their non-irradiated processes include BI Nutraceuticals, which also uses steam sterilization at its plant in China, and Blue California, which announced in 2006 that it had changed the ingredient purification process at its China manufacturing facility from gamma-rays to ozone.
Since the only by-product of the ozone process is oxygen, it is claimed to be a safe, efficient and environmentally friendly.
Chinese supplier Fenchem said last month that its newly-approved Quality Control System, which has been in place for the past year, removes the need to irradiate its herbal extracts and seasoning.
It says that it operates GMP-grade production to guarantee quality and safety instead of irradiation, since the system involves strict standard operating procedures. In communicating this assurance, Fenchem is aiming for a competitive edge over other Chinese suppliers on this basis.
But US-based campaign group Food and Water Watch argues that consumers should be wary on the grounds that the technique depletes vitamins and creates new chemicals in foods that affect taste and smell.