Booming demand for certification drives LGC's lab expansion

By Hank Schultz contact

- Last updated on GMT

Photo courtesy of LGC Group
Photo courtesy of LGC Group

Related tags: World anti-doping agency

LGC Group said strong demand for its supplement testing services led the need for an expansion at its laboratory in Lexington, KY.  The expanded facility was inaugurated at a ceremony last week.

The newly expanded facility enables the company to serve the demand created by its Informed-Choice and Informed-Sport labels. The latter is a seal that verifies a product is free from the more than 200 banned substances on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) list.

But why Lexington? That has to do with the history of LGC. The location puts the lab close to some of its highest profile clients, the thoroughbreds of Kentucky’s horse country. LGC, which is based in Teddington, England, has contracts to test samples from race horses in the UK to look for doping and does the same for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. It was a small step from there to doping testing for product meant for humans.

Zero tolerance testing

The expanded facility will allow for faster turnarounds and the discrete chain of custody that is required, said Todd Branch, supplements team leader at the facility. Branch said the expansion included the purchase of new mass spectrometry equipment that can cost up to $500,000 per unit.  But he said that level of precision was necessary to deal with WADA requirements, in which there is zero tolerance for banned substances. That amounts to a significantly more rigorous standard than typical product release testing for dietary supplements.

“It cuts through the muck of false positives,”​ Branch said.

Terence O’Rorke, director of business development in the sports and analytical services end of LGC, said the demand for the company's services has been driven by the Informed Sport program, which he characterized as the most rigorous in the industry. The program includes an initial site audit to verify that manufacturing facilities are up to GMP snuff, and also includes a test of every lot that wears the label. 

“We know that the industry is appreciating our quality levels and what we are providing,”​ O’Rorke told NutraIngredients-USA.  “Some of the larger brands are now using our seal, including GNC, Dymatize and Optimum Nutrition.”

Sign of quality

But O’Rorke said that demand stems not just from the assurance athletes get from using one of the labeled supplements—the assurance that they won’t fail a drug test as a result of something that might have found its way into a supplement—but that having the seal says something about the brand’s overall commitment to quality.

“It’s more a case of not just trying to target the elite athlete but trying to show their customers that they have a commitment to quality.  People are finally starting to see this program as a reflection of who they are as a brand.  That’s why we’ve seen 30% to 40% annual growth in demand for the program,”​ O’Rorke said.

“Some of the brands we started with started with one or two products and over time have registered their entire line,”​ said Paul Klinger, business development manager for the company in North America.

David Griffiths, managing director of LGC’s Laboratory and Managed Services division, said, “Since 2010, LGC has positively contributed to integrity and welfare in horse-racing in Kentucky and other US jurisdictions. LGC has more than 50 years of anti-doping experience and 175 years of high-quality analytical chemistry experience and we are delighted to open this expanded site and to showcase our continued growth and ongoing commitment to the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”

LGC is both ISO and Racing Medication Testing Consortium accredited and has provided equine drug testing services at its Lexington laboratory since opening in 2010. LGC successfully performed the drug testing for the equine competitors in the 2012 and 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and the Lexington facility has tested for such high-profile events as the Kentucky Derby and the 2011 and 2015 Breeders’ Cup - and continues to provide services to several racing jurisdictions in the US, the UK and other global territories.

The company says its Informed-Sport and Informed-Choice labels have supported clean sport for almost a decade by minimizing the risk of an athlete inadvertently committing a doping violation due to the consumption of a contaminated supplement. Approximately 440 products are registered on Informed-Sport, and 270 products on Informed-Choice, while 29 manufacturing facilities and 19 raw materials are also certified, enabling the sports supplements industry to increase the levels of quality assurance of its products. 

In addition to product testing, LGC is also moving to became a world leader in reference standards.  In the past month the company acquired o2si, a Charleston, SC-based manufacturer of organic and inorganic reference materials​, and also acquired UK-based BRC Global Standards​. In North America, in addition the facilities in Kentucky and South Carolina, LGC Group also has manufacturing facilities in Maine and New Hampshire.

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