The American Botanical Council (ABC)-American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP)-National Center for Natural Products Research (NCNPR) Botanical Adulterants Program (BAP) is an international consortium of nonprofit organizations, analytical laboratories, industry members, professional scientists, and others that advises industry, researchers, health professionals, and the public about the various challenges related to adulterated herb and botanical ingredients sold in commerce.
“For the first several years of our program we published articles alerting members of the herb industry about adulteration of specific herbs,” said Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the American Botanical Council and director of the BAP. “Now, in addition to our continuing series of publications on adulterated herbs, we are offering technical resources to assist industry and third-party laboratories to detect adulteration and help prevent adulterated botanical ingredients and extracts from being processed into finished consumer products.”
Official compendial methods (e.g., those published in the United States Pharmacopeia or the European Pharmacopoeia) exist for the authentication of many botanical materials, but such methods can be outdated for materials that may be adulterated in ways not conceived at the time of the development of officially recognized analytical methods, or may not be applicable to ingredients made using a specific manufacturing process. Additionally, unscrupulous ingredient suppliers driven by short-term financial gains have become more creative in finding ways to deceive a potential buyer’s analysts, making the proper detection of adulterants a potentially daunting, time-consuming, and increasingly challenging task.
The ABC-AHP-NCNPR Laboratory Guidance Documents are intended to provide reliable expert guidance on suitable methods to comply with the mandated requirements of testing for identity, purity, strength, and composition outlined in the United States Food and Drug Administration’s current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs) for dietary supplements. Per the cGMPs, it is the responsibility of the dietary supplement manufacturers to “conduct at least one appropriate test or examination to verify the identity of any component that is a dietary ingredient.”
The program’s LGDs provide information about the most suitable analytical methods for detection of certain adulterants and authentication of specific botanical materials in the form of whole, cut, or powdered raw materials, extracts, and essential oils. Recommendations are based on a thorough review of available analytical methods (e.g., from official and unofficial compendia as well as the peer-reviewed literature) and input from up to 20 peer reviewers from academia, government, and industry in multiple countries. The primary assessment of each method is based on its performance characteristics (i.e., suitability in detecting known adulterants); labor and analysis time comprise the secondary evaluation criteria.
The ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Program plans to release additional LGDs in 2015.
To date, the ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Program has published five extensively peer-reviewed and referenced articles on the history of adulteration, the adulteration of the herbs black cohosh and skullcap, adulteration of bilberry fruit extract, and so-called “grapefruit seed extract.” These open-access articles are available on the Program’s webpage here.