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It’s everyone’s job to prevent economic adulteration


Economic adulteration isn’t  going away anytime soon.  In fact, it may be getting worse, or at least, more companies have gone on alert to look for it, according to George Pontiakos, president and CEO of BI Nutraceuticals.

“The GMPs were a very big wakeup call for this industry,” he said, in the course of laying out all the ways in which various botanicals can be, and are being spiked.

Pontiakos has come across lots billed as ginseng root  that are mixed with other plant parts.  Or saw palmetto that is spiked with exhausted plant effluent or adulterated with palm oil.  Or shipments of black cohosh that are made up of other cohosh species. Gingko, Pontiakos said, “is replete with spiking opportunities.” And don’t get him started on goldenseal.  “We go through five lots to get one good,” he said.

“If it’s a hot product, there’s a good chance it will happen,” Pontiakos said.

How does a company defend against the practice?  Start by looking in the mirror, Pontiakos said.  What do you value, and how carefully are those values communicated throughout your organization?

“Buying only on price ultimately drives the market toward adulteration.  You get what you pay for,” he said. “If ginkgo is trading at $90 a kilo and my buyer gets it for $83, well, then maybe he’s a smart buyer.  He’s doing his job.  If he gets it for $50 . . . well, then either he’s crooked or he’s dumb.”

Then look outside your organization.

“Know your supplier!” Pontiakos stressed. Companies should have a bond with their key suppliers, one that transcends merely being a source of raw materials.

“Your supplier is a strategic asset to your business. They owe it to you to understand your company.  I want somebody who’s married to me and my business.”

And you had better know what your suppliers’ facilities look like, Pontiakos said. You have no one to blame but yourself if you are dealing with someone operating out of a post office box.

“When you ask to meet a supplier at their office and they suggest the Starbucks around the corner . . . I’d start to be concerned about that.”

Ultimately, testing for and preventing adulteration comes down to personal responsibility and a hands-on approach, Pontiakos said.

“Once your vendors know you are testing, they shape up,” he said. “You shouldn’t have to wait for an industry association to tell you whether a supplier is doing a good job.”

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