Bilberry tester will help detect contaminants

By Alex McNally

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Bilberry, E number, American herbal products association

The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) has launched
a toolbox designed to help determine whether powdered bilberry
extract is contaminated.

AHPA said it will provide analytical tools and methods to identify the adulteration of raw materials labelled as bilberry extract. This, the group says, will make it easier for industry to make wise purchasing decisions and detect the presence of the banned red dye 2. Bilberry has been hit with contamination problems this year, and in May bilberry extracts mixed with mulberry or black bean skins hit the Japanese market and elsewhere. Berry Pharma (formerly Artemis Nutritionals Europe) said at that time that the scale of the situation has reached such proportions that Japan, currently the biggest market for the extract, is considering banning bilberry. Companies were advised to test their bilberry extracts independently, especially if they were purchased for less than €500 per kg. Pricing levels are understood to have decreased since that advice was issued in May. Steven Dentali, AHPA's vice president of scientific and technical affairs, said: "AHPA is providing methods to help enable proper evaluations of materials where identity and quality issues are known to exist. "By providing these analytical methods, we will help companies make better ingredient purchasing decisions​," he said. AHPA said a simple procedure for testing for this contaminant is to raise the pH of dilute bilberry extract. The resulting color change from red to blue indicates the presence of anthocyanins. A red change shows it has been adulterated. The other method involves high-performance thin-layer chromatography (HPTLC) to provide a visual image that separates anthocyanins from the dye, also known as amaranth dye. The tools were developed after AHPA member company MediHerb investigated a sample that appeared to meet the listed specification for anthocyanin content by simple spectrometry. However, the company found that on further analysis the material was not likely derived from bilberry and was in fact adulterated with red dye no 2. These findings were reported in the Journal of Food Chemistry​ in September. Red Dye No 2 was banned by the Food and Drug Administration in 1976 as a suspected carcinogen. This article has been amended since its original publication on December 12 2007 to refer to Berry Pharma as the new name for Artemis International and to reflect bilberry price changes since May. apologises for any confusion caused by the outdated information.

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