The alterations have reportedly taken multiple forms, from changing or removing a client name to replacing a lot number. Some have even gone so far as to change the results of an analysis. Alkemist Labs claims that these alterations have taken place on reports not limited to those it has produced.
“Dateline NBC did an undercover investigation in 2012 that revealed a practice by some in the dietary supplement industry that involved issuing a Certificate of Analysis with whatever test results the client wanted, but not actually testing a product at all, a practice called ‘dry labbing,’” Alkemist Labs CEO Elan Sudberg said. “We’re calling this new problem ‘dry reporting’ and it has the potential to create as many terrible headlines for the industry as the dry labbing scandal did. The industry needs to be on high alert.”
The most recent incident Alkemist Labs identified started on May 6. Alkemist Labs said that several industry contacts brought to their attention an email that they had received promoting elderberry botanical extracts and linked lab reports purpoting to show identity of Sambucus nigra (elderberry). The linked report had been significantly altered from the original version. The company also clipped the images from the report and pasted those images in their marketing materials without any attribution.
Sudberg said that a spike in issues the supply chain is currently facing is forcing companies to rely on alternative ingredients suppliers who they haven’t yet vetted.
“We see this sort of thing from time to time, but lately it’s more common,” Sudberg said. “With the supply chain strained, some companies are buying from people they have not vetted, and should proceed with extreme caution. It’s essential that whenever material changes hands, it’s tested. Don’t skip this step, especially now. And if you get a C of A that says it’s from us, email it to us and if it is authentic, we will verify that. We hope other testing labs in our industry will follow suit.”
In one of the recent incidents, Alkemist Labs alleges that one of its reports on elderberry was doctored and sent out in an email blast, along with a report from another lab, DNA4 Technologies, which provides DNA testing for natural product identity and purity, which was also allegedly misused.
“We’ve demanded that the offending company send a letter to all the original e-blast recipients that correctly identifies that DNA4 did not test the extract powder described in the advertisement, as well as to modify the ad that is posted on their website and include a notation that a previous version of the ad incorrectly linked our report testing raw materials, to the advertisement of a powdered extract,” David Erickson, PhD, CEO and Cofounder of DNA4 said.
In 2016 Alkemist Labs issued a policy and guidance to the industry when it was found that companies were mimicking the company’s distinct report format. Those guidelines, still in force, include that all certificates of analysis issued by Alkemist Labs will contain “Copyright © Alkemists Pharmaceuticals 2020. All rights reserved.” Clients must also obtain written permission from Alkemist Labs to use their lab reports in marketing materials, and no changes or redactions of any kind are permitted, nor may the Alkemist Labs name and/or logo be removed or blurred.
“The Alkemist Labs C of A is valuable because of the reputation we have built for accurate testing and deep knowledge of the products we test,” Sudberg said. “We intend to protect that integrity.”