What to do about adulterated chondroitin

What to do about adulterated chondroitin

Synutra president to educate FDLI conference on detecting and deterring chondroitin adulteration.

Synutra International (Nasdaq: SYUT) President and COO Weiguo Zhang will give a presentation on economic adulteration of certain dietary ingredients and supplements at the Food and Drug Law Institute (FDLI)–hosted conference on Safeguarding the Functional Food and Dietary Ingredient Supply Chain.

The conference, to be held Sept. 10, 2013, in Washington D.C., will tackle the emerging compliance requirements for functional foods and dietary supplement manufacturers and distributors. Attendees will include attorneys, consultants, dietary supplement manufacturers, global suppliers of raw materials, and related trade associations.

The conference will be co-chaired by Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., director, Division of Dietary Supplement Programs, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Office of Foods and Veterinary Medicine, FDA; and Scott Bass, partner, Sidley Austin LLP.

Mr. Zhang’s presentation, entitled “Prosperity and Challenges of the Industry,” will discuss how the length and complexity of the supply chain along with price pressures has led to serious adulteration of the chondroitin supply, which serves as a useful case study on economically motivated adulteration.

As president of Synutra Ingredients, the largest supplier of chondroitin material in the world, Mr. Zhang is uniquely qualified to describe chondroitin adulteration concerns in detail. The company launched the branded ingredients Chondro Gold and Chondro Cal to differentiate from the commoditized chondroitin on the market after their extensive tests revealed significant levels of adulteration in the chondroitin supply chain. 

Chondroitin-containing supplement products are in the top five best-selling dietary supplements, with annual sales of about $1 billion, and all chondroitin sold in the U.S. is from overseas. “Those factors create the kind of environment for ingredients to be subjected to adulteration,” Mr. Zhang said. “In such circumstances, effective testing is essential, and yet if the method used isn’t suited for indentifying the common adulterants, the end result is that consumers are not getting the benefits they expect, so confidence, and sales, in the category are being eroded.”

Common adulterants found in chondroitin include sodium alginate, alginate suflate di-ester and a recently identified adulterant that Synutra is calling "Zero One" (Z1). These adulterants are used to fool the commonly used chondroitin assay procedure called cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC) titrimetry because they all, like chondroitin, titrate with CPC to produce assay readings as chondroitin at levels equal to or much higher than chondroitin itself.

“We feel strongly that we have a duty to inform the public of what is going on, especially with Z1, an unknown substance that could potentially be a public health hazard,” Mr. Zhang said. “Z1 is yet to be structurally identified but our initial NMR investigations reveal that it is an inorganic compound with no carbon and nitrogen elements but with the presence of sulfur. It has a fusion point of more than 278 degrees Centigrade. It is such a potent adulterant that it appears in CPC as chondroitin at 235 percent assay value. At a price comparable to chondroitin, there is ample incentive for adulterators to use this substance, since they can use less. This stuff has no place in a dietary supplement.”

Synutra Ingredients has led the industry in pioneering work to combat adulteration. The company has worked closely with documentary standard organizations and researchers around the world to apply and improve effective test methodologies to detect these adulterants in chondroitin supply. 

"By widespread adoption of effective methods the industry will be able to deter the practice of chondroitin adulteration," Mr. Zheng said. “FDLI provides a timely venue for us to inform the industry and public about the dangers posed by adulterants like Z1, and a great forum to rally for the adoption of some very meaningful test methodologies.”

In his presentation, Mr. Zhang will share details of these methodologies with an audience of industry stakeholders and experts.




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