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China and GMPs — what's the connection?

Sourcing from China could prove to be a major hurdle to quality control

UNITED STATES With so many ingredients sourced from and manufactured in China, will even the newly minted GMPs really have any effect on ingredient and finished-product quality?

Consider the following statistics:

  • 80 per cent of all vitamin C consumed in the US is supplied and manufactured in China.
  • Food exports from China to the US have doubled over the past three years.
  • The FDA inspects only one per cent of all food imports (down from eight per cent a decade ago) mostly in ports where there are labs — and the agency is talking about consolidating and closing labs.
  • The rejection rate from China — 157 food shipments in April 2007 alone — is highest among countries that export food to the US.

Jarrow RogovinFounder of California-based supplements manufacturer Jarrow Formulas, Jarrow Rogovin, told Functional Ingredients, all the testing and ingredients scrutiny in the world may not be enough to combat the glut of raw materials being imported into the US from countries like China. "The fact is the supply situation in China is out of control and quality control is variable. No GMP regulation, no matter how tough, is going to remedy that. Some companies will do a better job than others, so obviously suppliers need to be selected very carefully."

He added: "The more rigorous the relationship with your supplier the better, because there is a lot of reckless behavior going on out there."

The Natural Products Association, the US manufacturer trade group, is helping companies cope with quality issues with a new testing programme for Chinese raw materials and ingredients. The association, in partnership with USP, has a lab in Shanghai to conduct testing.

"Supply-chain security is part of the 2002 Bioterrorism Act. But not until the Chinese pet-food issue did we really start paying attention to supply-chain security in practice," said Nicki Jacobs, B&D Nutritional Ingredients' vice president of technical and regulatory affairs.

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