Earlier this year, Synutra, the leading chondroitin supplier in the US, convened a team of industry and analytical experts to identify an adulterant in chondroitin sulfate previously detected by internal work by the company, which it called Zero One. The research group’s work identified Zero One as sodium hexametaphosphate, or Calgon.
The most commonly used chondroitin assay method is cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC) titration, but it can be fooled by various known adulterants. As a result of their earlier work, Synutra is advocating the use of cellulose acetate membrane electrophoresis (CAME) before CPC. Electrophoresis is a method that uses an electric field to separate substances – the substances move by different amounts when in a colloidal suspension.
CAME is an inexpensive, simple, and effective procedure that can be used as a qualitative raw material screening tool before running quantitative methods such as CPC or other specific methods such as enzymatic HPLC.
‘Apply the right method, don’t just pay it lip service’
Weiguo Zhang, President of Synutra International, told us: “The team that worked on identifying the mystery adulterant Zero One as sodium hexametaphosphate was made up of the top chondroitin testing methods experts providing ample evidence of what testing methods work. We’ve shared that information with the industry, and now it’s up to the industry to apply the meaningful testing method, which in this case is CAME, in earnest, not just pay it lip service.
“We know we are having an impact because companies are looking at their testing methods,” he added.
Zhang said that the company has been consistently making the information readily available via trade communications. The company is also inviting stakeholders to their booth a SupplySide West to learn about effective ingredient testing methods to separate adulterants and ensure chondroitin purity and quality.
“As the largest supplier of chondroitin it is in our best interest for every consumer experience with chondroitin be one where they realize benefits, which requires pure ingredients,” hesaid.
While the industry is talking about the need for increased chondroitin testing this has not translated into the right use of tests. “We’ve seen industry trade news reports of a supplier increasing the number of tests they do specifically to spot this most recent adulterant our team identified, yet the methods they listed would not separate sodium hexametaphosphate,” said Jana Hildreth, Director of Technology and Scientific Affairs of Synutra Pure
“We want to make absolutely sure that the industry is doing the right tests for assessing the purity and strength of their incoming raw materials, and are happy to personally discuss the pros and cons of the current methods available with both colleagues and competitors.”
Hildreth added that she has even received a call from a chemist at the FDA asking if she could recommend a method for sodium hexametaphosphate. “It is quite evident that the word has spread.”
Chondroitin-containing supplement products are in the top five best-selling dietary supplements, with annual sales of about $1 billion, and all chondroitin sold in the US is from overseas. The US is estimated to have imported about 3,500 metric tons of chondroitin in 2012, and about 3,000 in 2011.
Chondroitin sulfate is extracted from animal cartilage. In dietary supplements the compound is often formulated in combination with glucosamine.
Synutra launched its branded materials, Chondro Gold and Chondro Cal, at the SupplySide Marketplace Show in NYC in 2013. The ingredients are described as ‘adulterant-free branded chondroitin products with guaranteed source traceability’. The company has grown from being the fifth largest chondroitin supplier in the US less than 2 years ago to number one.