What opportunities are there in the NY AG botanical probe?


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The New York Attorney General’s investigation into herbal supplements has been headline news for over a month, but for every problem there is an opportunity. NutraIngredients-USA caught up with some industry giants to see if there is a silver lining in this cloud.

Speaking with us at the Natural Products Expo West show in Anaheim, Steve Mister, president and CEO of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, said: “One of the things that the industry can take away from this is the opportunity to get the message out to more elected officials, more attorneys general, and consumer rights advocates that we do have federal regulations in place that mandate good manufacturing practices.

“It can serve as a wake-up call to everybody that we need to get even more serious about the kinds of tests we’re doing. We know in this case that DNA barcoding was absolutely the wrong test, but it does raise the question of what is an appropriate identity test as required by the law.”

Michael McGuffin, executive director of the American Herbal Products Association, told us: “We now have consumers talking about product quality in herbal supplements, and that’s always a good thing.

“There’s also an opportunity with the misinformation that the attorney general has provided on the relevance of DNA barcoding analysis for this particular subclass of products: It gives us the chance to talk about all the other established analytical methods, including some that are straight forward and have been around for decades and longer, like organolepsis and microscopy, and some of the chemical methods like HPTLC and HPLC. It gives us the opportunity to really communicate with consumers and policy makers the strict regulatory structure under which supplements are required to be manufactured.”

‘The bigger opportunity here is politically’

Dan Fabricant, PhD, CEO of the Natural Products Association: “I think the bigger opportunity here is politically. People need to recognize that this is going to repeat itself if we as an industry don’t organize politically.”

On the opportunity for greater transparency: “Firms are committed to quality, especially when it comes to GMPs, they’re committed to being transparent. When you see a manufacturer’s webpage and it details their manufacturing practices and everything they use I think everyone feels a little bit better about those products, versus some other who don’t disclose that kind of information.”

Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the American Botanical Council, said: “There is now a renewed sense of urgency around looking at the raw materials to ensure these materials are authentic and are properly identified, and not adulterated or contaminated. I think there’s a revisiting of that conversation.

“The issue of transparency is one that I welcome, and I think many consumers welcome it as well. Some companies have already taken the initiative to disclose the sources of supply.

“One of the limits of transparency from a business perspective is that supply of botanicals and other ingredients is often a matter of a business secret and releasing the source of your supply can cost you.”

‘An opportunity to educate not only consumers, but industry itself’

Loren Israelsen, president of the United Natural Products Alliance, said: “What we’re already seeing are efforts and attempts to educate not only consumers, which is the biggest and most difficult task, but industry itself. We have senior executives at companies who perhaps don’t really understand the state of the art in analytical science and technology. This is a one-on-one course for many in the industry.

“There is also an opportunity to educate members of Congress. They will look at this issue with some concern and hesitation, and we have friends and we have critics in Congress. We’ll use this to demonstrate that we have the capability, the expertise and the talent in the industry to respond to this. Our challenge is to be as open and transparent as possible, to take something that is unfortunate and create value and progress.”

‘Preliminary analysis suggests the AG got it very, very wrong from an identity perspective’

Roy Upton, founder and executive director of the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia, said: “We have done some preliminary tests on a number of the products pulled off the shelves and every single one of them, bar none, were exactly as they should be from an identity perspective. Preliminary analysis suggests the AG got it very, very wrong from an identity perspective.

“Look at the interest it has stimulated, this has really woken up the industry that there’s a sleeping dog that we need to look at.”




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