Stefan Gafner, PhD told NutraIngredients-USA that the new bulletin on saffron adulteration was published while the trade show, which takes place annually in Anaheim, CA, was in progress last week. BAPP is cooperative venture of the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia, the National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi, with the American Botanical Council, of which Gafner is also the chief science officer, as managing partner.
Saffron is one of the oldest botanical ingredients, with references in Assyrian botanical texts dating to the seventh century BCE. It is often regarded as the world’s most expensive spice. Saffron is first and foremost used in cooking, but also has uses as a dietary ingredient in the supplement trade. It has been studied most recently for boosts in mood and general quality of life.
Tiny source by weight
The ingredient consists of tiny tendril like stigmas (called saffron ‘threads’) taken from Crocus sativus flowers. The fact that only the tiniest fraction of the whole plant is used taken together with the fact that the tendrils must be harvested by hand and handled carefully accounts for the astronomical cost, which can approach $5,000 a kilo.
“That invites people to try to cheat by adding for example safflower or calendula petals that have the same color,” Gafner said. “We also learned that powdered saffron is sometimes diluted with paprika or turmeric powder.”
Gafner said the new document lays out the latest information on what kind of adulteration is taking place. It also gives pricing information, which can help suppliers spot ingredients that are offered at suspiciously low rates.