Green-lipped or green shell mussel extract is derived exclusively from Perna canaliculus mussels from licensed marine farms in New Zealand. It has gained a reputation as a natural product with anti-inflammatory properties - an effect attributed to a body of science to its lipid fractions.
But some suppliers have complained that extracts without the lipid fractions - and therefore with less anti-inflammatory effect - have been sold to nutraceutical companies for considerably less than those that retain the mussels' natural nutrient profile. Not only does this impact the selling price of the lipid-containing extract, they say, but it could also impact consumer trust of the entire category if they do not experience any benefit.
Steve Caulton, region export manager of Waitaki, told NutraIngredients.com that initial discussions have taken place to establish a system for companies to be registered with the New Zealand Mussel Industry Council (NZMIC) as approved suppliers according to intended use.
The NZMIC owns the Greenshell, Green Lips and Greenback mussel trademarks, but there is no legal definition as to what can and cannot be called green-lipped mussel extract, save its Perna canaliculus source.
Although the registration idea is still in its early stages and would need to be the subject of an industry-wide consultation, Caulton is confident that it could end the present confusion.
"We need to clearly differentiate what is in the market," he said. "That is how we think we are going to overcome this matter."
Caulton stressed that mussel extracts not intended for anti-inflammatory uses could still be sold, but they would be sold under separate criteria.
"We're not going to stop anybody doing what the are doing, but to make it clear to international markets what is out there."
One company that sells mussel extract minus the lipids is Pharmalink, which removes these fractions to use it its high-lipid joint health product Lyprinol.
Pharmalink director John Waitzer confirmed that his company does sell the mussel powder that remains after the removal of the lipid fractions, but he said that other nutritional elements - betain, glycosaminoglycans (including chondroitin sulphate and heparin) and 18 amino acids - are carefully retained in the manufacturing process. The mussel powder is sold to companies as a source of these nutrients.
"We never sell mussel powder on the basis of an anti-inflammatory claims," he told NutraIngredients.com in October.
The NZMIC had not responded to NutraIngredients.com's request for comment on the proposed registration system. In October executive officer Rebecca Clarkson told NutraIngredients.com that the council is aware of the broad range of processes and different efficacies, but that the onus is on the industry to pull together and set standards.
Caulton is confident that a procedure will be in place quite quickly, possibly within six months.