New tool to catch berry cheats

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 16th November 2010

Dietary supplement manufacturers often include health claims on products made with berries from the Vaccinium family – cranberries, blueberries and bilberries. Suggested benefits include prevention of urinary tract infections, reduced risk of certain cancers or Alzheimer’s disease, and improved night vision. Consumers may take such claims at face value, but one common problem with dietary supplement products containing berries is the risk of economic adulteration — dilution with less expensive juices, such as apple or grape, or the use of blueberries instead of bilberries as a cost-saver for the manufacturer. One way of telling whether or not a product has been adulterated is to measure organic acid ratios, which are specific to each type of berry.

Until now, analytical approaches for measuring organic acid ratios in berries, fruit juices, and dietary supplements have relied on the use of pure organic acid reference standards, which do not take into account the complexity of the whole berry. As a result, these methods could neither be validated as accurate nor used to certify reference materials to meet the needs and accuracy requirements of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and dietary supplement manufacturers.

In order to combat this problem, researchers at America’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed new certified reference materials for measuring amounts of organic acids in dietary supplements formulated with Vaccinium berries. Manufacturers and researchers can use this new suite of standard reference materials (SRMs) as quality assurance tools.

NIST’s new certified reference materials are:

* SRM 3281 Cranberry (Fruit)
* SRM 3282 Low-Calorie Cranberry Juice Cocktail
* SRM 3283 Cranberry Extract,
* SRM 3284 Cranberry-Containing Solid Oral Dosage Form
* SRM 3285 Mixed Berry-Containing Solid Oral Dosage Form
* SRM 3287 Blueberry (Fruit)
* SRM 3291 Bilberry Extract.