The highly publicized contamination scares involving imports from China are leading some suppliers, such as Fenchem, to take extra precaution in testing their ingredients so as to calm potential fears from US clients.
The Chinese supplier is now looking to differentiate itself by using a testing method to ensure its chondroitin sulfate (CS) derived from shark cartilage is in fact sourced from the genuine article. Fenchem is conducting Enzymatic-HPLC testing to guarantee genuine shark origin.
Chinese imports have been given a bad rap of late with an emergence of contamination cases - from pet food to toothpaste - which have drawn attention to the Chinese supply chain and regulations. This is putting pressure on manufacturers to do their bit and show they are sourcing responsibly.
"Certain contaminated CS products in the US market made manufacturers aware of the importance of raw material purity control," Fenchem spokesperson Junny Liu told NutraIngredients-USA. "The Enzymatic-HPLC method was initially studied to determine CS origin but now it is developed to quantify the purity of CS according to US customers' need."
Fenchem says its approach is new for Chinese companies supplying CS, though some US companies, such as NOW foods, already use this testing method for distinguishing between different sources of the ingredient.
CS is found in human tissue and is essential to joint health. Along with glucosamine, it has been sold for use in dietary supplements geared towards arthritis. It can be sourced from various animal cartilage.
The company traditionally used a CPC titration testing method which it says is not specific to CS and thereby not as reliable at the Enzymatic-HPLC method.
Fenchem claims few other Chinese suppliers have their own in-house Enzymatic-HPLC method.
The risk for falsely sourced ingredients is aggravated by a lack of defined testing methods, which is then compounded by the fact shark cartilage is not easy to come by.
"To guarantee the shark chrondroitin sulfate we are supplying is 100 percent shark origin," said Liu. "Fechem's quality control lab conducts Enzymatic-HPLC testing to certify the genuine shark origin from material source to finished product."
In April, wheat gluten products imported from China for use by the pet food industry were found to have been contaminated with the banned chemical melamine and were blamed for the deaths of hundreds of dogs and cats.
Then regulators discovered the pet products had been fed to a herd of hogs and three million chickens, leading to fears the contamination would spread further to the human food chain.
The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in turn gave its inspectors the power to detain all vegetable protein imports from China for use in animal or human foods if they suspected the products might contain the chemical.
FDA has also advised consumers to avoid buying any toothpaste labeled as made in China, after a recent scare over poisonous chemicals found in toothpaste exports from the country.