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Botanical adulteration remains an industry challenge

Article-Botanical adulteration remains an industry challenge

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Botanical adulteration remains an industry challenge, even as companies and consumers increasingly demand more transparency in sourcing and labeling. But as long as retail continues to compete mainly on price, certain companies will continue to think about ways to undercut their competition. Adulteration can be one way of doing this and offer surprisingly cheap products and alternatives.

Addressing adulteration

As a representative of the European Herb Growers Association (EUROPAM) and not the greater industry, we have seen a strong move in the botanicals industry towards more transparency in sourcing, as well as towards more partnerships with raw material suppliers instead of pure trading activity. Of course, there will always be ‘black sheep’, but the hopeful strategy going forward is to communicate openly and transparently about the production chain – from field to final product – and for companies to distinguish themselves from the worse examples in the industry. In that sense, we’ve seen good examples in the market, such as companies working on their own programs—including activities in cultivation, growing and collecting with exclusive partners. It’s important that we keep spreading the word that natural products are healthy, fair, and with a known origin. If adulteration influences the high-quality image of the natural products industry too much, consumers will lose their confidence in natural products in general, which would be detrimental to the market.

Playing the part

There are different types of adulteration, such as substitution, fortification, and depletion. As growers, we do not influence the entire production chain. In most cases, the growers have no input nor insight as to what type of products the raw materials will end up as, nor how the final product will be produced.For many years, we have worked on the Good Agricultural and Collecting Practices publications, which have been implemented throughout the production chain and adapted by the likes of World Health Organisation, European Medicines Agency and others. Our publication looks into the identification of botanical species, for example, so that a mistake of the plant species is prevented. An important issue for EUROPAM is the falsification of a plant’s geographic origin; so far there is a lack of suitable methods for proofing geographical origin. In general we are working together with key members of the industry on a transparent production chain. We have full registration records from the field to the final product, whether this is a dried raw material, an essential oil, or fresh herbs—the whole process is recorded with batch certificates and field records. Standardising these documents was one of EUROPAM’s initiatives in past years.

Fighting botanical adulteration?

Sourcing in a way that the industry and the growers work together as partners found form a solid foundation for combating botanical adulteration. If growers know what the final use of their raw material will be, they will be more aware about all quality aspects involved in the cultivation and processing. On the other hand, both industry and growers can share the marketing of a controlled cultivation. This gives added value not only for the growers, but for the greater industry as well. Together we have to work on the trust that we want consumers to have in natural products—it’s a joined responsibility. In Europe, we have a cultivation of approximately 130 to 140 different MAP-species, grown on an area of roughly 200,000 hectares—giving income to over 120,000 people, and this is excludes the wild collection of MAP-products.

Preventative steps

When it comes to the steps that companies should follow to ensure they are sourcing appropriately, finding the right partners is key. Work on forming strong partnerships that are committed to transparency and traceability—from the sowing on the field to the final natural product. We are confident that consumers are willing to pay for all-natural products that they trust so than there will be no reason for adulteration. It’s our responsibility and task to work on the trust and confidence we want from consumers by showing them how we get to the final product they’re looking for.

Editor's note

Bauke van der Veen (president of EUROPAM - European Herbs Growers Association, Netherlands) will be speaking at the Adulteration and Fraud of Botanical and Natural Health Ingredients workshop in, which will be focused on issues, challenges and prevention tools for the industry. Interested in listening to his workshop on 'Sourcing as a potential solution to adulteration issues' among many others? Register for the workshop taking place over 29-30 November in Frankfurt, Germany. 


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