How to Avoid Supplement Fraud ? The Case of Ginkgo Biloba

How to Avoid Supplement Fraud ? The Case of Ginkgo Biloba

Fraudulent behaviour is everywhere. Not surprisingly it also exists in the dietary supplement market. Sadly, this is an increasing business, that has a grasp on the industry with a relative ease they are able to mislead the customer and their products.

Ingredient fraud is considered a serious crime that unfortunately occurs all over the world. If businesses are discovered they will be severely punished. In fact, beyond any moral and ethical aspects, the safety and health of the clients can be compromised.

How does Oxford Vitality protect itself from the Fraudulent Suppliers?

Oxford Vitality is a quite a young company on created in 2013, but this does not mean we are naive to the scams. We are involved in both the manufacture and sales of supplements and so safety is paramount. The Oxford Vitality team is composed by professional experts in the field of health and nutrition. Our primary aim is to offer excellent services and products to the clients.

Are we Certified?

At the present time, we hold an Organic Certification, Ethical Company, and an FSSC 22000 Certification. All of the above audit on a regular basis and through spot checks. In these, they check if all the processes in our company conform to their standards. Their particular areas of focus include ingredients and product traceability, conformance to the legislation, hygiene, supplier reliability, products safety etc.

The Organic Audit checks that we are purchasing from organic certificated suppliers holding the EU Organic mark and that the current certification is valid on the day of purchase. Furthermore, they look at the quantity of ingredients that we buy and all sales records and then reconcile to see we have not corrupted the finished product (sold more than we bought). Obviously many other quality and safety checks are undertaken regarding, fresh water rinsing documentation, cleaning records, training records, cleaning product documentations are performed.

In addition this year in 2017 we were awarded the 22000 certificate. 22000 is an international standard that defines the requirements of a food safety management system covering all organisations in the food chain from “farm to fork”.

On the 8th of December 2016, we had the first stage audit in which SGS audited us (SGS is a certification body accredited by UKAS). Then we had our second audit on the 16th of February 2017. The second stage audit was successful and we have just received the official certificate.

Who are our Suppliers?

We take the selection of our suppliers very seriously. It is one of the most important and delicate processes in our company. The majority of our efforts are invested in research time to guarantee the best ingredients, thus the best products to our customers. During the selection, we are always looking for

  • Suppliers that respect all the European standards of quality and safety.

  • Suppliers that provide high-quality ingredients

  • Suppliers that offer good deals, we are a business focused on offering competitive prices in the health market.

Our suppliers are based all over the world. Our main suppliers are based in the UK, Holland, India, the USA, and China.

What do we expect from our Supplier? How do we avoid ‘Ingredient Frauds’?

There are a number of precautions we take with every ingredient we wish to buy such as requesting the Certificate of Analysis of each ingredients (COAs). COAs include information about its assay methods, active contents, source and others (microbiological tests, heavy metals test). However, these documents can be falsified, and ingredients tampered with. Therefore, it is extremely important to know who our suppliers and build up a good working relationship with them in order to know how they operate, and what systems of control they have. These systems must be externally audited with a system based approach by a third party (better if UKAS) accredited certification body to ensure that they aren’t conducting fraudulent practice.

Our purchasing policy states that our suppliers must have BRC or ISO 22000 or ISO9001 (BRC is an exact equivalent to ISO 22000 , but ISO 9001 is more common in quality standards). By having this policy and requiring the auditing company is accredited by UKAS we are ensure that the suppliers have correct internal procedures that are strictly abided by.

From the extensive list of suppliers, we only select this best which ensures that the company we buy from is professional with correct food safety and quality systems in place. Moreover, we demand that all suppliers must carry out in-house testing of ingredients so that we can confirm authenticity. External audits show that these systems cannot be cheated.

Frequently we are asked by clients if the ingredients origin is China, as they have concerns over this. However this unfounded, China has a very long tradition of supplements and its country is the founder of traditional herbal medicine. So it almost a blessing, and not surprising if the origin of some of our ingredients is China. Moreover, on the basis that our suppliers must be certified and by accredited auditors, the safety of the consumer is always guaranteed.

A recent case of fraud: Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo biloba is the only survivor of the division Ginkgophyta and it is one of the most popular supplements sold all around the world.

Technically, at this current time there are no approved health claims by EFSA, however studies have found that...

  • it is a good source of antioxidants.

  • It helps the maintenance of good cognitive function. It may help to maintain memory with little to no cognitive age decline.

  • It can help the microcirculation, this benefiting organ health, such as the brain.

The pharmacologically reveals that the active ingredients of Ginkgo biloba are called flavonols, glycosides and terpene lactones, other include Ginkgolides and Bilbobalides. To provide these actives it is essential that good quantities Ginkgo biloba extracts are used [2].

It is absolutely compulsory to guarantee the quality of the ingredients. In particular, the suppliers must assure [2]:

  • to use the correct plant (genus and species)

  • to use the correct morphological part of the plant

  • to do not add any other botanical or extraneous ingredients.

Recently there was an issue of fraud in China regarding millions of Ginkgo biloba tablets. The Chinese Food and Drug Federation decided to withdraw them from the market on the basis that some local suppliers sold substandard extracts of G. biloba. They traced it back to an extraction using hydrochloric acid instead of the traditional ethanol method. The use of hydrochloric acid helps the suppliers decrease the production cost but can have a negative impact on the active ingredients. Even if the safety of the consumers was not affected this was a case of fraud due to unauthorized manufacture process [1]. The manufacture of many extracts is set out in the Pharmacoepias of the world. It is our policy that extracts must be extracted by the methods set out in the European Pharmacopoeia.

Moreover some other suppliers added external ingredients such as quercetin and genistein into the Gingko biloba extract to increase the content of active ingredients. This is also considered as fraud because Ginkgo Biloba does not naturally contain these elements.

To this day, thanks to our precautions and dedication we have not had any problems in relation to the Ginkgo biloba that we offer. We pro-actively investigate each ingredient to find out what adulteration is common and how it can be avoided. We always communicate our findings with our suppliers to ensure we can work together to form the best and safest food chain for you.Our Ginkgo biloba comes from a very excellent certified supplier from China holding a ISO 9001:2008 certificate.

The Ginkgo biloba that we offer respects all the standards requested: is an extract containing at least 24% of Total Flavone glycosides and 6% total terpene lactones. The source material are the leaves of Ginkgo biloba and the solvents used for the extraction is ethanol.


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  2. Wohlmuth, H., Savage, K., Dowell, A., & Mouatt, P. (2014). Adulteration of Ginkgo biloba products and a simple method to improve its detection.Phytomedicine, 21(6), 912-918.

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