Solvents publication will bolster industry's quality practices, ABC founder says

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Solvents are an ubiquitous part of the production of herbal extracts. Soon a one-stop resource will be available for stakeholders to see what solvents are used, what their accepted residual levels are and other important information.

The American Botanical Council is nearing completion of its multi-year project to document the use of solvents in the herbal products industry as it continues to shed light on adulteration issues. Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of ABC who spoke with NutraIngredients-USA at the recent SupplySide West trade show, said the book his organization is compiling will be the first resource of its kind specific to the natural products industry. The project grew during the peer review phase, Blumenthal said, meaning that final publication has been pushed back to 2018.

“We are not aware of any place where one can go to get all of the information that we have compiled on these 23 solvents in one location,​ Blumenthal said. “It's going to be a quality control manual for helping people to look for and detect levels of solvents.

Overseas supply

The issue has taken on increasing urgency in recent years as more and more extracts come into the market from overseas. One of the downsides of increasing M&A activity in the dietary supplement industry can be a sharper focus on margins, and importing an extract rather than extracting the raw material in a domestic facility is one way to cut costs. Better control of margins is not a bad thing in and of itself, but the drive toward the lowest price in the commoditized lower end of the industry can lead some importers to look the other way on residual solvents.  While there has yet to be a documented case of a solvent residue being linked directly to an adverse event, it’s a vulnerability to have these chemicals present in finished products at unspecified levels.

In addition to having to take into account the many comments received during the peer review process, Blumenthal said the solvents project has  been slowed somewhat by simple bandwidth issues. ABC continues to publish materials in its Botanical Adulterants Program at an accelerating pace.  The program, which is a joint effort with the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia and the National Center for Natural Products Research, has 33 publications so far with more to come, he said.

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