From the moment in March 2015 when GNC signed an agreement with the New York Attorney General’s Office to incorporate DNA testing into its dietary supplement quality control program, DNA analysis of supplements and raw materials became an intense topic of conversation throughout the supplement industry. Not all companies rushed to add DNA to its testing lab runs, but some labs began to look at how to offer DNA testing to supplement companies, and some manufacturers started to explore partnerships and in-house potential for DNA testing. However, several technical and educational challenges continue to stand in the way of widespread adoption of DNA testing by labs, manufacturers and suppliers.
While DNA barcoding focuses on one specific gene, this gene is not effective for DNA analysis of plants. Different plant species may have different genes that are best for DNA testing. The process of figuring this out for every plant and variation used in dietary supplements requires time- and resource-consuming research, as well as verification and validation of any resulting test methods developed.
Given the current infant status of DNA testing of plants for identification purposes, the industry is adopting this technology slowly. Some labs are adding DNA testing to their list of services to the dietary supplement industry, either by creating their own DNA lab, including equipment, personnel and training, or by acquiring existing DNA labs, but the options for manufacturers are still limited. While some manufacturers and brand owners are looking to partnerships with suppliers and labs, others are exploring the development of DNA capabilities as part of their in-house labs.
Whatever the rate of adoption, leaders widely agree DNA testing is here to stay in the dietary supplement industry. Over time, the leading labs and manufacturers will serve as examples to the rest of the industry, and labs will undertake the task of educating the industry on the strengths and weaknesses of DNA testing of supplements, to improve the understanding of DNA testing and help companies put DNA testing into the proper context for their businesses.
For more on the current state of DNA testing in the supplement industry, including details on how DNA testing works, check out INSIDER’s Digital Magazine, “Lab Testing: DNA Is Here to Stay."
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