Easy as ABC: Botanicals body launches fightback vs economic adulteration

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A new series of white papers will help the dietary supplements trade wise up to the tricks used by unscrupulous suppliers to adulterate herbals and botanicals, American Botanical Council (ABC) founder Mark Blumenthal tells Elaine Watson.

Con artists will always find more sophisticated ways to adulterate supplements to make a fast buck, but the industry is fighting back, said Blumenthal, who was speaking to NutraIngredients-USA.com at the SupplySide East show.

The papers, to be published on the ABC website​ starting later this year, would highlight frequently-used adulterants for key botanicals, warn firms what to look out for and offer expert commentary about appropriate testing methodologies, he said.

While it would be naïve to believe that simply following GMPs would eradicate the problem, increased vigilance and more robust testing regimes would go some way to tackling it, said Blumenthal.

Anecdotal evidence suggests problem on the increase

There are no official figures documenting the extent of the problem, added Blumenthal. However, anecdotal evidence suggested it was on the rise, particularly in products targeting weight loss, erectile dysfunction and body-building, in which spiking with illegal drugs was an ongoing problem.

While in many cases, adulteration with cheaper ingredients did not represent a food safety issue, it could seriously undermine consumer confidence in the efficacy of dietary supplements because products that did not contain the stated dose of the active ingredients listed on the label would not work, he pointed out.

In other cases, certain botanicals might be unfairly implicated in food safety scares because products had been adulterated with the wrong species, he said. "Take black cohosh, where there have been associations with liver problems. When the supplements were analysed, in every product implicated, there were markers for Chinese species, and not the black cohosh (Actaea racemosa) ​listed on the labels. And the wrong information was also on certificates of analysis."

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