NTP urged to be ‘highly precise’ when identifying herbal extracts ‘to avoid any possible confusion about the relevance of the studies’

By Stephen DANIELLS

- Last updated on GMT

NTP urged to be ‘highly precise’ when identifying herbal extracts ‘to avoid any possible confusion about the relevance of the studies’

Related tags: Ginkgo biloba, Dietary supplement

The Senate Appropriations Committee has urged the National Toxicology Program (NTP) to be "highly precise" when describing particular extracts of an herbal species to avoid confusion about different extracts from the same species.

In its report accompanying the fiscal year 2014 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations spending the committee stated:

"National Toxicology Program [NTP]. -- The Committee urges NTP to be highly precise when describing the results of its studies on particular extracts of an herbal species to avoid any possible confusion about the relevance of such studies to other extracts of the species.

“The Committee also encourages NTP to reinstate its practice of making available on its Web site a transcript and/or recording of its public meetings."

Commenting on the report's statement, Michael McGuffin, president of the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), told us that AHPA greatly appreciates the attention of the Senate Appropriations Committee to these important issues.

“Transparency is essential to the relationship of any federal agency with the public,"​ he said. "In 2009, when NTP stopped providing complete records of its meetings, AHPA requested that it reinstate this practice. While we were not successful at that time, perhaps now that the U.S. Senate has encouraged NTP to do so there will be a better response.

“And of course precision is essential to any scientific research. NTP has established a practice of extrapolating the results of research on a single extract of an herb, including extracts that are dissimilar to the most commonly marketed ingredients, to all products made with that herb. This practice limits the value of their publically-funded research and causes confusion for consumers. We hope that NTP will also take seriously the Committee’s encouragement on this issue.”

Controversy

The NTP’s controversial final report on its long-term tests of ginkgo biloba, which showed some carcinogenic effects, was widely criticized by industry experts, with many saying the safety concerns may not be applicable to available ginkgo extracts because the material used in the tests was so unusual.

The NTP stated in the report that the extract was representative of what was available in the market.

However, speaking with NutraIngredients-USA following the publication of the NTP report, Mark Blumenthal, executive director of the American Botanical Council, said that questions were raised first by ABC and AHPA about the ginkgo they were using from Shanghai.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) subsequently called on FDA for a ban on ginkgo products. 

The FDA response to the CSPI request said: "…it is not scientifically valid to conclude with certainty that dietary supplement products containing Ginkgo biloba are unsafe based solely on data from the new NTP study. In the study, rats and mice were fed amounts of Ginkgo biloba extracts (by body weight) that may be considerably greater from those which a consumer would normally ingest from a dietary supplement product containing Ginkgo biloba.

“In addition, there may be differences in the extract used in these studies in contrast to what is available on the market for Ginkgo biloba dietary supplements."

Related topics: Markets, Botanicals, Cognitive function

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