Suppliers spoken to this week as part of a NutraIngredients joint health special referenced a problem that is niche in terms of the total amount of adulterated product on the market, but which could have devastating effects.
The main concern is the substitution of shark cartilage-sourced chondroitin with that of other animals such as pigs, cows, birds or even dogs that may not carry the same efficaciousness.
Although not all of this material comes from China, 80 per cent or more of it does according to most estimates, so attention is being drawn to the supply chain there, in an attempt to better control the “rogue players” that are engaging in economically motivated adulterated (EMA).
There are also sanitation issues with some of these animals, according to Kenn Israel, vice president of marketing at Californian contract manufacturer, Robinson Pharma, with many carcasses carrying disease.
“Anything with four legs and fur is fair game,” said Israel. “There are tests but how effective they are is debatable and many of the ingredients pass into products without being tested because the vendors do not want, or cannot afford, to conduct the testing. The smaller players are competing on price and so turn a blind eye to it, they don’t want to ask the difficult questions.”
“These issues have been on the table for awhile, and some say the situation is getting worse. The problem is that if consumers somehow find out the chondroitin they are buying is sourced from dog, the ‘oh my god that’s disgusting’ factor may kick in with potentially devastating results for the whole category. The biggest brands, who tend to do things by the book, have an awful lot to lose from this.”
Larry Kolb, president of US operations for TSI Health Sciences, said extreme fragmentation meant there was little that could be done about a situation that may in fact only account for a few percent of the total product on-market. For this reason the company had established its own dedicated supply channel.
“Know your supplier well through self audits and visits,” he said.
Israel recommends the establishment of a trade group of the ilk of the omega-3 group, GOED, to help raise standards within the sector.
The imposition of good manufacturing practises (GMPs) on the smallest supplement players in the US this June should also aid in that direction, “if the FDA polices it efficiently”.