The New Jersey-based company has announced that its L-(+)-Selenomethionine ingredient is now guaranteed to contain less than one part per million (ppm) lead, less than 0.5 ppm arsenic, less than 0.5 ppm cadmium, and less than 0.5 ppm mercury.
Although they are naturally occurring, when consumed in large enough quantities heavy metals can be toxic to humans.
Sabinsa president Todd Norton was clear to point out that no changes have been made to the product itself, just to the specifications.
"Selenium SeLECT has always been well within US Pharmacopeia (USP) standards for heavy metal content," he said. "The new limits represent the bare minimum we can comfortably and confidently deal with."
They are based on comprehensive trend analysis of actual analytical results.
The USP limits are 20ppm for heavy metals and 10ppm for lead, and Norton said that these were actually devised in cooperation with Sabinsa.
The company is hoping to establish a new benchmark, but as to whether the USP, an independent body, will lower its limits too, Norton couldn't say for sure. But he said that it may choose to do so.
Selenium is a trace mineral that is found naturally in soil. FDA has approved a qualified health claim linking consumption of selenium to a reduced risk of certain cancers, including breast, prostate and colon. Other research has indicated that it can help prevent stroke and heart disease, and provide greater resistance to the polio virus.
Sabinsa's decision to lower the heavy metal content in its product was driven partly by EU regulations (the company has recently submitted a dossier on Selenium SeLECT to comply with the food additives directive) and partly by the reality of market conditions.
Even in the US consumers are requiring tighter specifications, and some states, including California, have taken legal action against companies with products containing high levels of heavy metals.
Norton also said that SeLECT is currently being used by the National Cancer Institute in a 12-year study into the role of selenium and vitamin E (both separately and together) in the prevention of prostate cancer, and press releases issued by the company about this have led to enquiries form other research centers about using it in other studies.
Because of this research, the US remains the company's primary area of focus. But Norton told NutraIngredients-USA.com: "It will be interesting to see how this research is received internationally," said Norton.
He revealed that Europe is a key area of growth for the company, which already has suppliers in the UK and Italy, and that a number of new opportunities are opening up in the region.