Amber Waves of...Eck!

George Pontiakos

May 7, 2012

3 Min Read
Amber Waves of...Eck!

Amber waves of grain: a reality or fantasy?

It’s a stock image that most consumers have when choosing their wheat and grain products. However, to those of us in the industry, we know otherwise. It is especially a fantasy in BI Nutraceuticals' niche market of healthy, botanical ingredients. Organized, cultivated plants are a rarity and so are technologically advanced machines of harvest. Instead, it is individuals (usually from developing countries) wildcrafting without structure or processing and quality standards. This results in an increased risk of adulterated/contaminated ingredients whether it’s from groundwater contamination, a poor crop, and a variety of other ways. Adulteration/contamination of goods is the reality.

Adulteration occurs in only two ways: one involves your ingredient supply chain. Groundwater contamination, contamination in transit, and inclusion or addition by supplier all fit this category. It can either be done unintentionally or purposefully. Unintentional adulteration occur because of confusion in vernacular names between indigenous systems of medicine and local dialects, lack of knowledge about the authentic plant, non-availability of the authentic plant, similarity in morphology and/or aroma, careless collection, and poor specifications.

Purposeful adulteration includes mixing or mislabeling a species type, spiking marker compounds to increase assay, using a low cost common substitute to “stretch” an ingredient, using irradiated or ETO’d material along with non-irradiated material, or buying the wrong species and claiming it correct. Whether unintentional or purposeful, the first indication of such product is price. Your purchasing model is the number one enabler of adulterant products.

To ensure quality ingredients, additional steps can be taken to avoid adulteration/contamination. Testing and scrutiny are required: a complete ID testing (one type of ID testing may not be enough), irradiation testing, marker compounds testing, vendor audits, and chain of custody scrutiny. Industry participation, vendor qualification, and planning are necessary. Planning means forecasting demand. This helps avoid spot buying and reduces complexity in the supply chain. Since your supplier is your only true line of defense, the most effective and efficient method is to partner with a professional supplier you cannot audit in quality. Pick a supplier who actually is a business–-one that has an international staff, capital investment in quality and processing, sources directly, knows the market and has the capital strength to audit these suppliers aggressively, and is open to having you, the buyer, in the process.

Protecting your business, your marquee, your wealth vehicle is your responsibility and allowing an unprofessional supplier to tarnish or destroy your business is simply unacceptable.

Ultimately, the buyer has the ability (and responsibility) to make sure the ingredients are not adulterated. Buying only on price drives the market toward adulteration. As the saying goes, “You get what you pay for.” The quality of your products is only as good as the total quality of your suppliers.

Mark Blumenthal and myself will delve deeper into these and other issues at our presentation, “Best Practices in Quality Assurance and Control: Monitoring Supply and Detecting Adulteration/Contamination” during SupplySide MarketPlace on Thursday, May 10 at 9:00 a.m. – Javits Center 1E08, Level 1.

We look forward to you questions and hope you will attend this pivotal presentation—your company’s future might depend on it.   

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