Nutritional Outlook

Nutritional Outlook, April 2018

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■ NUTRITIONAL OUTLOOK 48 Botanicals/Herbs APRIL 2018 TEST QUESTIONS R oughly three years after New York At- torney General Eric T. Schneiderman conducted a sting operation into herbal supplement mislabeling, some in the industry are still suf ering f ashbacks. From a public-relations standpoint, the episode was hardly a shining moment for industry as headlines across media left the impression that the herbal and botanical products that consumers had come to rely upon were really black boxes packed with adulterants bearing little relation to the active contents stated on labels. While the attorney general's investiga- tors built their case on evidence purportedly gathered from DNA testing, the supplement industry mounted a valiant defense, making special ef ort to explain why the DNA testing most likely employed by those investigators was not f t for purpose—meaning that just because investigators did not see evidence of bilberry DNA in a supplement, for example, that did not necessarily mean that there was no bilberry extract in the formula. It's worth noting, as Elan Sudberg, CEO, Alkemist Labs (Costa Mesa, CA), recalls, that "the testing technicalities of the Schneider- man/The New York Times–manufactured controversy were really never on consumers' radars. T e message to them was simplif ed to 'T ese herb companies are cheating you.'" Amazingly, however, for the most part, "con- sumers continued to trust the brands they already trusted," he says. And that may be the happiest ending to this narrative that supple- ment makers could have hoped for. By this point, the fallout from the investi- gation has…fallen out, most say. And there's room to argue that the industry is better of for the scrutiny and the resulting debates over the precise role DNA barcoding should play in authenticating the contents of herbal and botanical products. Arriving at a verdict entails understanding just what DNA bar- coding is, and what it does. Test of Choice As Jesse Miller, PhD, director of applied re- search, NSF International, and director of NSF AuthenTechnologies (Ann Arbor, MI), describes it, "DNA barcoding refers to the method of using a short region of a genome to identify an organism." By comparing that region, or sequence, of genetic material to known reference sequences, the method can ascertain a sample's origin down to the species level. And while DNA barcoding has longstanding applications in genetic research, paternity and genealogy testing, agriculture, and forensics, it's also "been used successfully for the identif cation of Reevaluating DNA barcoding's role in identifying botanical ingredients. BY KIMBERLY J. DECKER SHUTTERSTOCK.COM/ SERGEY NIVENS

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