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Natural Foods Merchandiser

Herbal supplements manufacturers see limitations to heavy metals

The American Herbal Products Association just issued new guidelines concerning the presence of heavy metals in herbal supplements. Yesterday AHPA published "Heavy metal analysis and interim recommended limits for botanical dietary supplements," a white paper that presents the association's proposed interim limits for heavy metals, which were announced in October 2008.

Since supplements manufacturers are legally bound to implement current Good Manufacturing Practices, AHPA's paper sets specifications for individual contaminants that may be present in a variety of herbal offerings. Because heavy metals are prevalent in soil, they are also found in many foods, and subsequently, in herbal supplements. But AHPA is confident that most supplement manufacturers will stay in compliance. "For the vast majority of products, meeting these limits should not be a problem," says Steven Dentali, Ph.D., AHPA's chief science officer.

The paper attempts to apply knowledge about available technology, safety issues, regulatory precedent and industrial practicality to ensure that herbal supplements remain safe. The research includes information on regulations of lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic in products sold in the U.S., available analytical methods for measuring heavy metals, and guidance on how to determine which analytical methods are most suitable for dietary supplements.

Dentali also noted that AHPA will be receptive to feedback from the industry. "AHPA's limits were established as ‘interim' so that we can both give industry a chance to implement them, where appropriate, and to allow suggested modifications as necessary," he said.

"Customers should rest assured that the industry is attentive to heavy metal issues in supplements," said Dentali. "Retailers are encouraged to become familiar with AHPA's white paper and to contact AHPA if they have any questions or concerns." AHPA members are welcome to download a copy of the paper here.

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