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ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterant Prevention Program Marks 10 Years of Research and Education in the Botanical Ingredients Marketplace

Responsible herb industry members use BAPP publications to set ingredient specifications, authenticate ingredients, and detect and remove adulterated materials from supply chain

AUSTIN, Texas (March 9, 2021) — The ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterant Prevention Program (BAPP) announces the completion of its 10th year of research and educational activities in the international herb and medicinal plant communities.

BAPP was founded, in partnership with consortium members, by the nonprofit American Botanical Council (ABC) in 2011 as a research and education program to assist responsible members of the US and international botanical industry in authenticating botanical raw materials, extracts, and essential oils, as well as to detect their adulteration by unscrupulous suppliers. The ultimate goal of BAPP is to help ensure the authenticity of botanical ingredients in consumer products.

The BAPP partnership also includes the nonprofit American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP), an independent organization that produces high-quality monographs for use by herb industry members, researchers, and regulators on herbs used in commerce; and the National Center for Natural Products Research (NCNPR) at the University of Mississippi, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-funded Center of Excellence for the analysis of botanical dietary ingredients and the development of appropriate laboratory methods for analyzing botanical ingredients and finished products.

As of early March 2021, BAPP has published 63 extensively peer-reviewed documents, which are available for free on the BAPP homepage on the ABC website. BAPP documents include Botanical Adulterants Prevention Bulletins (BAPBs), Laboratory Guidance Documents (LGDs), the Botanical Adulterants Monitor e-newsletter, and various articles in ABC’s peer-reviewed journal HerbalGram. In addition, BAPP scientists have authored or co-authored research papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals and have also participated in many speeches, webinars, and media interviews related to the global challenges associated with economically motivated (i.e., intentional) adulteration. BAPP publications are peer reviewed by numerous international experts in academia, industry, and government. (For example, the bulletin on turmeric adulteration was reviewed by 29 experts.)

BAPP was initiated by BAPP Founder and ABC Founder and Executive Director Mark Blumenthal. BAPP’s first publication was released in HerbalGram issue 92 in winter 2011. Written by botanist, author, botanical expert, and renowned medicinal plant photographer Steven Foster, the article — “A Brief History of Adulteration of Herbs, Spices, and Botanical Drugs” — provides clear examples of adulteration, counterfeiting, and fraud in the sale of botanical materials since Greco-Roman times. Foster’s contributions also include HerbalGram articles on the adulteration of skullcap (Scutellaria laterifolia) with potentially liver-toxic germander (Teucrium chamaedrys), and articles on bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) and the challenges of ginseng (Panax spp.) taxonomy and nomenclature.

In 2013, BAPP expanded by hiring Stefan Gafner, PhD, as ABC’s chief science officer and BAPP’s technical director. In 2015, BAPP began publishing a series of BAPBs (22 thus far) and LGDs (10 thus far).

In its 10-year history, BAPP has been supported by over 200 global botanical community and industry entities, including herb companies, trade associations in the U.S. and internationally, professional research and health practitioner organization, research centers, and others. A full list is available on the BAPP homepage.

BAPP has been recognized twice by leading industry media organizations. In December 2016, Nutritional Outlook magazine presented BAPP with its Best of the Industry 2016 award and, in 2019, BAPP received the Editor’s Award for Industry Initiative of the Year from NutraIngredients-USA, another of the leading industry trade publications in the United States. BAPP was chosen for the Editor’s Award as “an exemplary educational resource about adulteration in the botanical supply chain.”

According to Blumenthal: “There are numerous ingredient suppliers and manufacturers in the botanical industry that operate their businesses ethically and responsibly, producing reliable and authentic botanical and fungal ingredients and a variety of natural consumer products. We are truly grateful for the financial, scientific, and moral support that BAPP receives from these companies, and many other parties in the global community who recognize the vitally important research and educational role that BAPP plays in the international medicinal plant and botanical industry.”

In an informal survey of 115 BAPP supporters, including 50 members from the dietary supplement industry, nearly half (24) of the industry representatives responded that they had implemented new quality control measures due to BAPP publications, 15 revising their ingredient specifications, and 18 changing ingredient suppliers based on information provided by BAPP. The Botanical Adulterants Monitor was considered the most useful resource by the largest number of these industry members, followed by the more extensive HerbalGram articles and BAPBs.

According to Gafner: “For me, this is a moment to look back at what BAPP has achieved over the past 10 years. If, as industry feedback suggests, BAPP has indeed helped to bring better quality supplements and other botanical products to the consumer, then I would say it has been successful.”

Professor Ikhlas Khan, PhD, Director of NCNPR stated, “We are very pleased to be part of BAPP which has been serving the global medicinal plant research and industry communities for a decade, addressing the issue of adulteration and fraud, and providing invaluable and highly reliable educational materials for everyone involved.”

Roy Upton, founder and president of AHP commented: “AHP has always believed that educating industry about the prevalence of botanical adulteration, and more importantly, providing solutions, is a key to safeguarding public health. After 10 years, I can honestly say that various segments of the industry have made changes needed to minimize the incidence of adulteration. There will always be those who intentionally trade in fraudulent materials for economic gain. For those who want to do it right, BAPP has made it much easier. For those who don’t, the FDA hopefully is watching.”

Industry veteran Loren Israelsen, president of the United Natural Products Alliance, an industry trade organization, wrote: "Intentional adulteration is the bane of the botanical industry and has been for centuries. The American Botanical Council recognized this problem as central to their mission and to the reputation of our industry and trust of our consumers. BAPP has now completed its 10th year and has become the essential science-based resource for information and tools to detect and remove adulterants from commerce. This is a major achievement. There is much work to be done. I salute ABC, AHP, and NCNPR for their determination to openly address and commit to resolving this persistent scourge within our industry."

In addition to providing members of the herb industry and analytical laboratory community with authoritative technical information and guidance on adulteration, BAPP has also created an industry self-regulatory tool to assist responsible botanical industry companies in removing adulterated ingredients — referred to as “irreparably defective articles” — from the global botanical supply chains with the BAPP Best Practices Contract Language and Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the Disposal or Destruction of Irreparably Defective Articles. These documents have been submitted for public comment on two occasions and will be published by BAPP in 2021.

Natural product industry regulatory consultant Michael Levin, primary author of the BAPP supply contract and SOP, stated: “While the dietary supplement industry has a requirement to report serious adverse events to the FDA, there is no similar requirement, or even guidance, for buyers to manage irreparably defective ingredients that are economically adulterated in the United States and elsewhere. In 2021, BAPP will empower stakeholders to address this regulatory guidance gap by providing carefully vetted contract and SOP templates that supply chain partners can adapt for use in supply contracts. In so doing, both buyers and sellers of ingredients will have a contractual agreement that mutually assures destruction of defective ingredients that cannot be lawfully remediated, thus preventing their reentry into commerce.”

The next BAPP publications will include a Laboratory Guidance Document on olive oil and Botanical Adulterant Prevention Bulletins on pomegranate (Punica granatum) and saffron (Crocus sativa), among others. In addition, BAPP intends to publish a review of laboratory analytical testing demonstrating the adulteration of elder berry (Sambucus spp.) in the upcoming issue of HerbalGram (issue 130).