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Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program Publishes Revised Bulletin on Saw Palmetto


The ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Prevention Program (BAPP) has announced the publication of a revised Botanical Adulterants Prevention Bulletin (BAPB) on saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) berry and berry extracts.

Non-GMO Project

Saw palmetto extract is a popular ingredient in dietary supplements in the United States and other countries and in phytomedicinal products in Europe. The primary use is for normalizing prostate function to relieve lower urinary tract symptoms (e.g., ability to void urine) related to benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) in middle-aged and older men. The 2017 HerbalGram Herb Market Report ranked saw palmetto products among the 20 top-selling herbal supplements in the U.S. in both the natural and mainstream retail channels.

As documented in the initial bulletin on saw palmetto published in February 2017, adulteration of saw palmetto by adding undeclared lower-cost vegetable oils (e.g., palm, canola, coconut, or sunflower oils) to saw palmetto extracts for financial gain has been known since in the early 2000s. Over the past two years, several saw palmetto suppliers have reported the sale of a particularly sophisticated type of adulterated saw palmetto extracts mainly from suppliers in Asian countries. According to the suppliers, these materials are partly made using fatty acids obtained from animal fats and are designed to mimic the fatty acid composition of authentic saw palmetto extracts. The revised saw palmetto bulletin has been updated to reflect this newly reported form of adulteration with animal fats.

The saw palmetto bulletin is co-authored by Scott Baggett, PhD, an analytical methods consultant for the natural products industry, and Stefan Gafner, PhD, chief science officer for the nonprofit American Botanical Council (ABC) and technical director of BAPP. Besides information on new forms of adulteration and how to detect them, the bulletin provides updated information on the saw palmetto market by adding the latest US sales data and a discussion of the new harvest permit requirements issued by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in July 2018. Six expert peer reviewers provided input on the revised saw palmetto bulletin. The first bulletin was peer-reviewed by 10 experts.

“Below-average harvests of saw palmetto berries have led to a dramatic increase in berry prices. This situation, combined with a consistently strong demand for saw palmetto dietary supplements and other phytomedicinal products, has led to a situation where adulteration of saw palmetto extracts appears to be on the rise,” Gafner explained. “Adulteration by mixing saw palmetto extracts with fatty acids from animal materials is particularly challenging to detect since these fraudulent mixtures are designed to pass routine laboratory chemical methods of analysis.”

“The adulterators, fraudsters, criminals—whatever you want to call them—have reached a new low in herb ingredient and botanical extract adulteration,” added Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of ABC and founder and director of BAPP. “Adding undisclosed amounts of animals fats to what would otherwise be a plant-based remedy is not only illegal and ethically inappropriate, but also morally abhorrent—particularly for the millions of [people] who are vegetarians or members of a religious group that promotes or requires vegetarianism or avoidance of certain types of meats.”

For more information, visit http://cms.herbalgram.org/BAP/BAB/SawPalmettoBulletin.html?ts=1540830209&signature=58a32ad10d61ff66f9e01623748f6433.