American Botanical Council Takes on International Partners to Help Heal an Industry Shadow via Adulterants Program

The end-of-2014 statement from the American Botanical Council (ABC) highlights international developments with its exemplary partnership to address one of the industry’s most intransigent problems. The program is the internationally-reaching Botanical Adulterants Program that ABC has worked to expand in recent years with two partners: the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia and the University of Mississippi’s National Center for Natural Products Research (NCNPR). The program’s already expansive set of endorsers recently received additional participation from the world’s largest medicinal plant research group, the Society for Medicinal Plant and Natural product Research (GA) and also from the International Alliance on Dietary/Food Supplement Associations (IADSA). In addition, two exceptional professionals are now working on the initiative. One is international regulatory expert Michael Smith, BPharm, ND, and the other is product chemist John Cardellina, PhD. Smith, a senior fellow at the Samueli Institute, has led regulatory initiatives in Canada and Australia. He was a top consultant to the World Health Organization’s Traditional Medicines Strategy 2014-2023.

A leading initiative of the adulterants program is the development of Laboratory Guidance Documents to “provide summaries and evaluations of existing analytical methods for determining authenticity and detection of adulteration of herbs already covered in the Botanical Adulterants Program.” The program’s first such document, on the herb skullcap, is about to be released. ABC anticipates that the adulterants program “will be picking up even more steam in 2015.”

Comment: This program is to the herb industry what the US Institute of Health Improvement’s (IHI) “100,000 Lives Campaign” was to the US medical delivery system. Each calls attention to an ugly shadow that many in each industry would consider just the kind of dirty laundry to not air in public. The IHI campaign responded to a 1999 report from the Institute of Medicine of the US National Academy of Sciences that found medical errors accountable for 98,000 deaths.

While death and product adulteration as outcomes are hardly of the same order of magnitude, from a public relations perspective each may be viewed as carrying similar weight within the respective industry. ABC and its partners are calling attention to both intentional and unintentional “errors” in the makeup of herbal products that can influence both their usefulness to consumers and their safety. Good for the IHI on the former. Good for ABC and ABC’s partners on the latter. The botanical industry is international. Notably, the ABC end-of-year statement also boasted that it has “added 10 new international experts to the ABC Advisory Board (and we’re planning on adding more).” Alignment of interest note: I serve on the ABC Advisory Board.

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