DNA Barcoding for "Natural" Products
Are there really shark fins in that "natural" supplement you're thinking of buying or could the ingredient be catfish fins instead? Is that expensive Korean ginseng you're taking actually imported from Korea or is it an overpriced product made in the U.S.? Difficulty in correctly indentifying and controlling these and many other products has affected consistency and safety for years.
Now researchers in Ontario have developed a method of authenticating "natural" health products using DNA barcoding. Mehrdad Hajibabaei, lead author of a study published in the journal Food Research International, says that this is a crucial finding because the health product industry is under-regulated worldwide and mislabelling poses economic, health, legal, and environmental implications.
A release from the University of Guelph's Biodiversity Institute of Ontario states that about 80% of people in developed countries use natural health products, including vitamins, minerals and herbal remedies.
Hajibabaei, the study's author, is quoted in the release as saying, “Currently there is no other broadly applicable tool that can identify the species used in both animal and plant natural health products as rapidly and cost-effectively . . . DNA barcoding provides a simple and efficient method for accurate identification and can play a key role in developing a more robust protocol for their regulation.”