Herbals, plant extracts getting cleaner

Related tags Green tea Europe

Plant extract suppliers are developing new technologies to
sterilise herbs to help customers avoid increasing scrutiny of
solvent use and meet higher demands for product quality.

French extracts firm Burgundy launched an 'extra pure' version of its Grapemax brand grapeseed extract at Vitafoods this month, which relies entirely on water for the sterilisation process.

Meanwhile US-based PureWorld​ is looking for European distributors for herbal powders that are cleaned using its patented oxidation process based on food-grade hydrogen peroxide.

Irradiation of herbals, used more frequently in the US, must be labelled on products in Europe and therefore is increasingly avoided but the common alternative, ethanol extraction, has become the focus of food authority warnings in recent months.

Last year France and Spain, followed by Belgium, issued a warning against high ethanolic solvents, after a green tea product on the market raised concern of potential liver toxicity.

"Nobody knows yet whether ethanol is responsible for these toxins or whether they come from other factors such as poor storage conditions of the herbal. But once one product raises attention, the authorities turn to others,"​ Ceferino Pascual, sales manager at Burgundy, told NutraIngredients.com.

The company, which claims to have the biggest capacity for grapeseed extract in Europe, says that the water-extracted product has almost the same ORAC value as the original product. The Teamax green tea extract, another top-selling product, is also available as extracted from water only.

PureWorld's proprietary sterilization method leaves water out altogether, providing an alternative to steam, which can change the composition of herbal powders.

The company, which claims to be the largest botanicals extractor in the US, says that its oxidation process, patented earlier this year, gets round many of the problems affecting batch consistency when using steam sterilisation.

"Steam can extract some of the actives out of the powder and also lead to colour changes and clumping,"​ explained Monica Johnson, account manager at the firm.

"We were using steam sterilization but found that it was changing the physical properties of the products. Our new method is cost-effective and leaves no residues on the powders,"​ she said.

"It is also environmentally friendly, which is a wonderful claim to put on a product label."

The company, which can produce up to 3000 metric tons per year of herbal powders, is aiming to grow its sales in Europe, where it claims the quality of its products can meet stringent requirements.

It has also carried out some toll work for other manufacturers.

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