In a bold move that may re-create the nutraceutical cranberry ingredient marketplace, Fruit d’Or, the world’s largest organic nutraceutical processor and supplier of cranberry and blueberry, has entered into discussions with Rutgers University to explore a cranberry-proanthocyanidin standardization program.
Fruit d’Or is collaborating closely with Amy Howell, PhD, of Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, to endeavor to establish a cranberry quality assurance program whose goal is to bring and sustain a higher standard of quality and science to the industry that uses cranberry ingredients for health supplements, gums foods, beverages and cosmeceuticals.
“The nutraceutical ingredient industry, overall, is facing challenging times as media is now questioning the integrity of the cranberry industry due to lack of standardization,” explains Stephen Lukawski, sales and marketing director, Fruit d’Or Nutraceuticals. “At Fruit d’Or we have already achieved higher quality cranberry standards of potency, purity and safety of the products that we are currently selling. By working with Rutgers we will continue to raise the bar further to build a stronger industry based on science, quality and innovation.”
The lack of standardization in the cranberry supplement industry was identified and highlighted when the October 2012 study published in The Cochrane Library analyzed over 24 studies on cranberry and UTI prevention and found there was marginal benefit. According to Dr. Howell, this study analysis failed to show benefit due to the disparate cranberry materials used in the studies. Howell, a research scientist at Rutgers University who was on the team that indentified PACs as the active ingredient in cranberries, explains, “It compares apples to oranges. Some of the studies used juice, while others used supplements, most of which were not even tested to ensure PAC bioactivity,” she says. Because of this, some of the studies reviewed by Cochrane showed positive results, while some showed no benefits at all.
However, the study yielded a more impactful nugget — it brought attention to the need for standardization. Says Howell, “Right now, it’s the Wild West out there, not only with cranberries but many functional supplements. Many companies are putting out products without even testing for potency. Cranberry PACs prevent bacterial adhesion to bladder cells, but bioavailability can be destroyed by a variety of factors from high pressure or high temperature processing to improper storage.”
Lukawski then tested Fruit d’Or’s new line of cranberry ingredients along with 15 other natural cranberry supplements for sale in North America. The results from an independent accredited third-party lab confirmed that the amount of active PACs in the 15 retail products purchased off the shelf varied greatly — ranging from less than 1 percent to 8 percent, while Fruit d’Or’s cranberry ingredients were shown to contain 15 to 20 percent PACs. Test results further revealed that certain branded patented ingredients varied in potency from product to product.
Because there is no standardized protocol requiring measurement of PAC content of cranberry ingredients, there is no way for consumers to know or identify which retail products contain active PACs, which don’t and if those levels are viable as shown by science. The proposed quality assurance program initiated by Fruit d’Or would ensure that each lot is tested annually for PAC levels. Further, based on research, Howell believes that all cranberry health supplements should deliver at least 36 milligrams of bioactive PACs per day.
Because of the disparate PAC content in finished products, Lukawski maintains, “Cranberry suppliers cannot accurately rely on their older studies as there was never a test to show how much PAC activity was found in the starting material. As result, these tests cannot be duplicated. In addition some cranberry suppliers have changed their manufacturing formulas since their studies were released. In addition, the source where raw material manufacturers purchase cranberries differ each year, affecting the consistency and quality.”
He adds that most suppliers of cranberry powders lack the knowledge and identity of the actual grower and therefore, the original condition of the cranberries, and thus end up losing control of the quality of the material they sell. “It would be encouraged and prudent if cranberry suppliers, product developers, formulators and buyers visit the cranberry bogs where the source material is grown and investigate the processing and production facilities so they can be assured that they have made the most appropriate choice for their company and their brand. As a buyer, inconsistency of quality or lack of control of where the cranberry powder comes from should be a priority concern,” he opines.
Beyond standardized PAC testing, Lukawski also wants to see all products tested for heavy metals and prohibited pesticides, and the ultimate goal of this program is to develop and utilize a credible “seal of approval” that would apprise consumers that the cranberry product they purchase has succeeded in achieving certain quality control tests. “At Fruit d’Or we have raised the bar of quality to address any concerns of integrity and food safety issues. It’s time to promote higher standards of science potency and purity,” Lukawski asserts. “We are now asking product manufacturers to work together with Fruit d’Or to create a quality standard that ensures safety, quality and efficacy of cranberry-containing health products. For more information and questions, email Stephen@fruit-dor.ca or contact directly at 239 248-7118.