Adulteration... an ingredient checklist

Nutraceuticals Now magazine features article by Ryan Gorman, Brand Director, Network Nutrition (Part of IMCD).

The global natural products industry faces a deluge of quality challenges. These become amplified when the focus is placed on herbal ingredients, given the quality-management minefield this ingredient segment represents all on its own. The architects of adulteration make it their business to understand the detection techniques in use by quality control personnel, devoting a substantial amount of their energy to finding ways around them. All too often the adulterant nobody would ever suspect is the one that traps unwitting organisations in the natural products space. But why?

The ethical element of industry, that is; commercial operators who promote better standards of quality, industry bodies fighting for what’s right (American Botanical Council, American Herbal Products Association, Health Food Manufacturers Association (UK), Complementary Medicines Australia, to name a few) along with various regulatory bodies; tend to be slower at stamping out adulteration than the rate at which engineers of the same adulteration are pushing out new techniques of trickery. We accept it’s not plausible to rush to the crime scene before one exists, so we’re always going to be at least a few steps behind, left following the scent and trying to understand how we’ve had the wool pulled over our eyes, again! But what is to be said of the variety of approaches to this craft; its purpose being to deceive the ingredient user?

The term ‘adulteration’ is commonly in use as a catch-all to describe numerous adulteration-‘esque’ techniques that, when examined further, can be individually distinguished by their inherent characteristics and acknowledged by a specific definition. This article attempts to drill down to the layers beneath the surface, giving clarity on some unique characteristics of each technique, why they might be used, how they can be difficult to unveil, as well as a case-study or two with some tips on what to look out for in certain circumstances.

Adulteration can be further dissected into substitution, fortification, depletion, as well as unintended instances of adulteration that generally involve mistaken identity. Let’s start by defining the catch-all term; 

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