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Functional foods at the forefront of innovation – and adulteration, says USP

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 12-Oct-2011

Functional foods at the forefront of innovation – and adulteration, says USP

Functional foods is a dynamic area for innovation – but standards setting organization US Pharmacopeia (USP) says cooperation is necessary to ensure a stable, safe supply of innovative ingredients.

USP is the non-governmental, non-profit authority responsible for setting the standards that make up the Food Chemicals Codex (FCC), a compendium of ingredient monographs and tests to ensure the quality, purity and safety of more than 1,100 food ingredients.

In an interview with FoodNavigator-USA, USP’s director of food standards Markus Lipp said that innovative ingredients on the intersection between dietary supplements and foods, such as naturally derived extracts, may be one of the most confusing areas when it comes to ensuring ingredient authenticity.

He said: “We think that is one of the most innovative and dynamic areas, and an area the food companies seem to bank on because they can make health claims to add additional value to their products. Obviously consumers are interested in that.”

He stressed that USP is not involved in confirming these ingredients live up to their claims, but its standards are intended to ensure manufacturers – and ultimately consumers – get what they pay for.

“The fact is that consumers want these products and they have a right to a safe product. There are also so many products coming out that have a claim one way or another…and we think we may be able to contribute a little bit to provide stability in that environment.”

However, industry and regulators have a part to play alongside standards setting organizations to safeguard against adulteration, Lipp said.

“I think we can only prevent adulteration if we all work together,” he said. “We need to focus only on authenticated materials. For industry, it’s their products on the line; it’s their branding on the line.”

With this in mind, USP has organized a workshop to bring all stakeholders together around the issue of adulteration of food ingredients and dietary supplements, to take place on November 16 and 17 in Rockville, MD.

In Lipp’s experience, those who adulterate food ingredients for economic gain are always aiming to keep a step ahead of current testing methods, so it is not always the case that testing finished foods will guarantee safety. Ingredient monographs and tests, however, should be able to detect whether materials have been replaced or diluted, affecting purity and authenticity.

“Adulteration is often a very dynamic and innovative field in itself,” he said. “…Let’s not forget that adulterators go to conferences too. Their perspective is: how can I bypass these tools? They stay abreast of the latest developments.”

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