Is DNA barcoding now the adulteration tool du jour?

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Supply chain Supply chain management

The NY Attorney General’s focus on DNA barcoding may actually be making quality worse, says Frank Jaksch, CEO of ChromaDex, and the focus should be on supply chain management and not analytical techniques.

Speaking with NutraIngredients-USA at the recent SupplySide West show in Las Vegas, Jaksch said that the DNA barcoding issue is a “distraction”​ for the industry.

“Look, use it or don’t use it, but it’s just another analytical method that may or may not be useful for testing these types of products, botanicals in particular,” ​he said.  

“The tool doesn’t give you 100% of the answer. Take ginseng as an example, it’s not going to tell you what plant part it is. It will tell you if you have ginseng or not, but it will not tell you if you have authentic root or leaf.”

“Although the NY AG is trying to defend the consumer, they just actually made consumer products worse through this action, that’s my opinion. DNA barcoding is now the adulteration tool du jour. We’ve already started to see it. You can pixie dust a bit of authenticated herb into a mix, and because it’s non quantitative it will pick up on a little amount, so it can be used as a tool to validate garbage.”

Jaksch said that the supply chain is everything, and that quality control and analytical testing is something that you do as part of a supply chain process to validate what you already know through audit and inspection.

“There’s too much emphasis on DNA barcoding and analytical testing altogether, and I’m an analytical lab – think about that.

“In reality, quality is in supply chain management. It’s in audit and inspection of that supply chain.

“The businesses practices, and especially the purchasing practices of this market, have to change.”

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Good points raised here

Posted by James Neal-Kababick,

Frank, so many of these comments are what I have tried in earnest to convey to industry. The DNA analytical technique offers great value in the proper place but is not a stand alone answer anymore than loss on drying, HPTLC or any other analytical technique is. The industry has to embrace the evolving technologies including DNA testing but properly and use them in a fit for purpose manner. Instead of being proactive, we once again see a reactive industry behind the defense line which, even if rightly so in a few cases, still looks bad to consumers. The warning of the abuse of DNA testing was evident in the highly flawed paper a year before the first NYAG action. When companies use DNA analysis properly, with a lab qualified to do the work and supplement that testing with the other orthogonal testing that is essential to answering the question of what DNA is saying in the result then you have something to go with. That said, as long as companies jump vendor to vendor and lab to lab on price and test to test on what is trendy they fail to establish long term, validated and verified relationships in the total supply chain AND across the breadth of their part 111 compliance (lab, manufacturing, holding, etc.) then these problems will continue. At the Analytical Summit in SLC, I will be presenting a toolkit for the industry to take and use in any lab so that they can interpret DNA findings and understand if they have adulteration or acceptable amounts of foreign organic matter. Again, I am all for properly conducted DNA analysis when used in appropriate situations (powdered botanicals are a great example) but you will frequently get data that indicates "other" which will include some of the most unusual unrelated items out there. Now you need to clarify that "other" and subsequently on your next visit to the CMO and supplier the incident needs to be evaluated to ensure that facilities cleaning and other HACCP related matters are not contributing DNA and that supply chain issues that can be addressed are. Otherwise, as you said, we are taking a huge step back with this when it should be a giant leap forward.

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Posted by Joe Zhou CEO TSI GROUP,

I am in total agreement with the points made by Frank.

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So many good points!

Posted by Elan Sudberg,

Great interview Frank and Stephen!!!

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