Overview of challenges
There is a wide variety of plants used for their various beneficial properties—the number of preparations possible is practically endless. More than 75% are still collected in the wild, and demand is evermore increasing.
The challenge of adulteration can be due to misidentification or substitution with allied species of the same genus (which are often co-occurring), as well as the inability of collectors to phenotypically discriminate the species—this could lead to contamination and species adulteration. Often a different vernacular name is used in different regions which can lead to confusion. However, all too often, species adulteration is simply driven by profit—suppliers resort to using or mixing alternate plant parts of the same species or similar species, which either have less or no pharmacological effect, but can still contain the markers.
Appropriate sourcing as a solution
Correct sourcing is key to fighting botanical adulteration, and each step of the chain should be adequately checked. The further we get into the supply chain the more difficult and costly it will become to guarantee the right plant is used. With regards to appropriate sourcing, companies should implement a supplier qualification/certification program, revise their quality management system, and require additional data or specific analyses if needed. Ongoing education of employees on botanicals and sourcing is also advised.
The whole chain of identification and characterisation should be followed: from botanical macro- and micro-identification, to chromatographic analyses (TLC, HPLC, LC/MS) and experts should be contracted to do this. Hopefully, DNA analyses will become cheaper in future. Through sector organisations, companies could invest in better analyses for botanicals (ring-tests, for example). The implementation of a vigilance system could also be useful.
Joris Geelen (partner at Food Compliance International, Belgium) will be speaking at the Adulteration and Fraud of Botanical and Natural Health Ingredients workshop, which will be focused on issues, challenges and prevention tools for the industry. Interested in listening to his workshop on 'How the Belgian Experience with Botanicals can Help Tackle Adulteration' among many others? Register for the workshop taking place over 29-30 November in Frankfurt, Germany.