Concerns about the chondroitin supply chain increased last year when a team of industry and analytical experts convened by Synutra identified an adulterant in chondroitin sulfate as sodium hexametaphosphate, or Calgon.
In addition to identifying the adulterant, the team also developed a method to test the ingredient. The most commonly used chondroitin assay method, cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC) titration, can be fooled by various known adulterants. Utilizing cellulose acetate membrane electrophoresis (CAME) before CPC can weed out any adulterated product, however. Electrophoresis is a method that uses an electric field to separate substances – the substances move by different amounts when in a colloidal suspension.
CAME, which has been in the USP monograph for chondroitin sulfate for years, is an inexpensive (as little as $190 per sample), 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.
The research group’s method was published in the Journal of AOAC International.
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.
Chondroitin sulfate is extracted from animal cartilage. In dietary supplements the compound is often formulated in combination with glucosamine.
But has the company seen an increase in adoption of the method? “Currently we do not have a way to measure industry adoption of the CAME and CPC combo for chondroitin purity and assay,” Weiguo Zhang, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Synutra Pure, Ltd told NutraIngredients-USA. “We know our clients are either using the combo in their own labs, or rely on us for guarantee to screen inbound materials for adulterants.”
Industry organizations are also beginning to stand behind the company to advance meaningful and effective testing, he said. Indeed, UNPA advised its members of the publication of the study in December and recommended adoption. AOAC International is considering it as a candidate method for its ‘Official Method’.
As part of the company’s ongoing education efforts, Jana Hildreth, Synutra Pure’s Director of Technology and Scientific Affairs, updated the Pacific Southwest Section of AOAC International this week on official method development for chondroitin testing at their annual meeting in Monteray, California.
“We continue to drive the education process within the industry, especially in light of the ongoing challenges the industry faces,” said Zhang. “We just hope members of our industry can all wake up to the dangers before they are hit. More is needed to be done, including widespread adoption of CAME before CPC on chondroitin, to become really transparent and less vulnerable to consumer and regulator skepticism.
“Because of the New York Attorney General's actions, companies are thinking more specifically about their ingredient testing, so we would expect to see adoption of the CAME and CPC combo happen more rapidly going forward.”