Online Exclusives

USP Seeks Standards Input

By Joanna Cosgrove, Online Editor | January 21, 2013

Krill oil, stevia and caffeine are among the latest ingredients with proposed Food Chemicals Codex revisions. The comment period is open now.

The United States Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) periodically revises the standards contained in its Food Chemicals Codex (FCC) compendium of food ingredient quality standards to help guarantee the quality of food ingredients. The USP recently issued a call seeking comments on proposed revisions to standards pertaining to krill oil, stevia, caffeine and food-grade gold and food-grade silver.
Krill contains the omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and the phospholipid phosphatidylcholine. Dr. Markus Lipp, senior director, food standards at USP, told Nutraceuticals World the decision to revise the standards associated with krill oil and the other aforementioned ingredients were specific and multifaceted.
This is the USP’s second attempt at a monograph for krill oil. “Our first proposal was in December 2010, and during the public comment period, we received a lot of feedback from our stakeholders that aimed at further strengthening our proposed standards through improved tests for identification and quantitation of phospholipids in krill oil—which is where the omega 3 fatty acids are largely present,” he explained. “As such, the phospholipids are the focus of much research on purported health benefits of krill oil and are considered the valuable component, so this was valuable and welcome information that we needed to address. In our new proposal, we are advancing a method using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to better determine the profile of the phospholipids present—helping to ensure the quality overall and also specifically addressing concerns about adulteration of krill oil, which has been reported as being a concern in the marketplace.”
With regard to stevia, USP felt a revised monograph proposal would provide a more simplified approach for separating and measuring all nine glycosides present in the stevia leaf. (USP also has a monograph for high purity Rebaudioside A, the first stevia-based sweetener widely used in the U.S. and Europe.) Dr. Lipp said USP’s newly proposed revision is a further enhancement of its existing standard for steviol glycosides, which helps to better separate and measure more accurately all of the glycosides present on the stevia leaf. “Some FCC users have told us that our original method was presenting some challenges in their laboratories in terms of insufficient separation and equipment degradation—which we are confident we rectified (but again, encourage users to try in their laboratories and provide us with feedback during the comment period),” he said.
The revised caffeine monograph currently offered for public comment includes a more discriminating liquid chromatography test for both identity and quantitative determination of the purity of caffeine content. “For caffeine, this was a situation where we saw an opportunity for our standard to be modernized to ensure it is up-to-date in terms of technology and other elements,” he commented. “We review all of our standards periodically for these purposes, and given recent attention to caffeine levels in energy and other drinks, it is especially applicable today.”
Dr. Lipp believes that the proposals were “sound” and “very strong,” however, public comments are an essential part of the fine-tuning process. “Legitimate concerns have been raised during this period, sometimes leading us back to the drawing board,” he said. “Ultimately, the end-product is an even better standard. At this point, we can’t predict the nature of the comments we’ll receive during the 90-day public vetting, but we very much value what we receive and encourage comments and firmly believe that through engaging the public through our Food Chemicals Codex Forum we are poised to produce the best standards possible at this time.”
“Ensuring the quality of the food ingredients that make up so much of our global food supply is not only part of responsible business practice, but is critical to the health of consumers,” said V. Srini Srinivasan, PhD, executive vice president of global science and standards at USP. “Public standards defining the identity, quality and purity of ingredients incorporated into finished products can be an important resource for manufacturers as they source ingredients from suppliers around the world, offering some assurance that they are receiving the ingredients they expect by providing public specifications to which they can be compared. While important for all ingredients, it is especially crucial for high-value ingredients, including those linked to health benefits such as krill oil and so-called natural ingredients such as stevia, which manufacturers and consumers pay a premium for and are in high public demand. We invite comment on the new proposals to allow us to develop robust public standards that are valuable to all parties.”
The proposed standards are available for public review for a 90-day comment period, which closes March 31, 2013. Food manufacturers, ingredient suppliers and other interested parties are encouraged to comment on these proposals, which are contained in the most recent FCC Forum.
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