Interest and demand in DNA testing has grown significantly in the wake of the high profile investigation on dietary supplement manufacturers by the New York Attorney General. The NY AG has built his on-going investigation on a foundation of DNA testing, despite strong criticisms from industry stakeholders about the applicability of the technology for the products tested.
“We have seen an increase in demand from retailers and brand owners who manufacture, source and sell dietary supplements, food ingredients, and finished products,” Dr. Lori Bestervelt, NSF International‘s executive vice president, told NutraIngredients-USA. “There are increasing regulatory and consumer concerns around these products—retailers and manufacturers want to validate the authenticity of the ingredients and raw materials they obtain from their global suppliers.”
The Richmond, CA-based DNA-testing lab AuthenTechnologies is known for having developed a Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) platform that allows in-depth analysis of what is in a sample. “[With NGS], the sky is the limit – we can identify all components in a sample – even in botanical extracts,” co-founder of AuthenTechnologies Dr. Danica Reynaud told NutraIngredients last year.
“No other laboratory in the world is capable of providing this type of advanced DNA-based identity testing or authentication technology,” Dr. Bestervelt said. “Adding this technology to NSF’s global laboratory capabilities aligns with our public health mission and our goal to remain a technical leader in testing.”
Shorter segments for specific results
According to NSF International, AuthenTechnologies’ NGS method detects short fragments of DNA, 100-200 bases in length, compared to the 500-1,000 bases in length used by traditional DNA barcoding.
With smaller segments tests can reveal plant ingredients, which are known among botanists to be hard to detect through DNA-barcoding methods because, as the CRN said in a response to the New York Attorney General’s actions against herbal supplements, “in the manufacturing process, the active ingredients—phytochemicals—are extracted from the plant cells and the DNA is actually damaged or left behind.”
In its press release, NSF International said that NGS from AuthenTechnologies can detect “low quality and fragmentary DNA in a wide range of products,” including plants and “their extract and raw material ingredients.”
In addition, clients of NSF’s Consumer Values Verified program now have access to AuthenTechnologies’ DNA-based GMO and allergen screen technologies, as well as verifying seafood authenticity and speciation.
“NSF International had been working with AuthenTechnologies for some time prior to the AG investigation in support of our dietary supplement program and food fraud prevention services,” Dr. Bestervelt said. “Of course, the AG situation helped create greater awareness of the importance of this type of next-generation DNA sequencing technology. Adding this technology to NSF’s global laboratory capabilities aligns with our public health mission and our goal to remain a technical leader in testing.”
AuthenTechnologies co-founder Dr. Danica Reynaud will continue to lead the DNA-testing laboratory, joining NSF International as Global Director of Scientific Innovation and their facilities in the San Francisco Bay Area will be renamed to NSF AuthenTechnologies.
The news has been received positively by industry stakeholders. Elan Sudberg, CEO of Alkemist Labs, said: "Considering the long standing relationship Alkemist Labs has with NSF and their openness towards method transparency and collaboration we are thrilled to learn of this news and look forward to working with them more in the future."