Consumer Alert: Synthetic Curcumin Warning!
Let us face it. Natural product industry is facing its biggest challenge now. On top of the misguided genomic testing, we are now faced with adulteration of natural products especially Curcumin.
As the dietary supplement industry in general and herbal products specifically experience unprecedented levels of negative media coverage and legal action on a regional level, those of us with a long-term commitment to this industry must exhibit leadership. Those of us who have spent our careers making and selling products to improve the health of our fellow human beings know that those writing and saying dietary supplements are either dangerous, unregulated or have no benefit are mistaken, and most of the criticism is unfounded.
While much of the criticism is based upon bad science or lack of knowledge, such as testing extracts with a method no true expert would ever use, those of us immersed in this industry know that there are vulnerable points, particularly in the ingredient supply chain. I believe that Sabinsa is not alone in being dedicated to providing high quality, science-based products to enhance human health and well being, and I call on like-minded companies and the industry’s trade associations to weed out those companies and practices that undermine quality and erode confidence in the entire industry.
We’ve spoken in the past of the importance of respecting and honoring Intellectual Property, which we believe is essential for continued innovation. Recently we have discovered a new threat that must be stamped out to preserve the integrity of the industry and safety of the products we all make.
We have discovered synthetic Curcumin being sold as Turmeric extract with forged Certificates of Analysis. A company selling Curcumin extract in India for export to the US was adulterating their product with 43% synthetic curcumin, but not revealing the synthetic contents. We have taken legal action against them, and a criminal investigation has been opened, but it is important the entire industry be on the lookout for more of this adulteration. I believe it is far more rampant than we thought.
With Curcumin sales in the US alone growing so quickly, it isn’t surprising that there are those looking to sell cheaper, inferior product into the marketplace, but we believe this deceptive practice threatens the future. Our fear is that there are other botanical extracts that are similarly adulterated. We just don’t know, but it’s likely, and the industry needs to find out.
The obvious questions with synthetic herbs are “what was it synthesized from? What chemicals were used, and in what process? How do you know it is safe for consumption by humans?” Synthetically made materials may have distinctively different pharmacological activities compared to natural products. If a company is selling synthetic Curcumin, and not identifying that some or all of it was synthetically derived, that lack of transparency is not only misleading consumers who think they are taking a product derived from Turmeric root, but has the potential to hurt people.
FDA views synthetic versions of natural botanical compounds as different from the botanical itself, thus a supplier of such material would be required to file an NDI notification with FDA, including proof of safety, for the products to be legally sold in the US.
Synthetic copies are, however, difficult to trace in a product using routine analysis. Plant-derived products can be distinguished from synthetic products by their content of natural carbon activity. The use of DNA testing for herbal extracts is debatable, however we know the DNA technique fails when it comes to finding adulteration with synthetic material. Therefore identification and quantification of radiocarbon in these cases provides an accurate way to detect adulteration.
As the industry gets more serious about quality issues, identifying synthetic versions of herbal products becomes crucial. We call on the trade associations and all companies committed to the future of the industry to work together to discover how widespread this deceptive practice is, and to take action to weed it out.