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Jennifer Grebow is editor-in-chief of Nutritional Outlook.
In a press release, AstaReal called its departure from NAXA “amicable."
Astaxanthin supplier AstaReal (Burlington, NJ), one of the founding members of the 2014-formed Natural Algae Astaxanthin Association (NAXA), announced it is leaving the association, citing concerns over the association’s ability to affirm the quality of its membership’s astaxanthin ingredients. But Scott Steinford, NAXA’s president, defends the association’s vetting practices, stating that the group requires all members to undergo “third-party testing.”
AstaReal (as part of Fuji Chemical Group), together with astaxanthin suppliers Cyanotech Corp. (Kailua-Kona, HI) and Algatechnologies Ltd. (Kibbutz Ketura, Israel), banded together to form NAXA in January 2014 as a way to unite suppliers of Haematococcus pluvialis–derived astaxanthin and to draw distinction between producers of algae-derived astaxanthin and producers of nature-identical astaxanthin. Today, NAXA’s members also include China-based suppliers Beijing Ginkgo Group (BGG) and new member Yunnan Alphy Biotech Company, Ltd.
In a press release, AstaReal called its departure from NAXA “amicable,” but Joe Kuncewitch, national sales manager for AstaReal, also stated the following: “NAXA membership may give the false impression that all members are offering astaxanthin of equivalent quality. However, NAXA only confirms that member companies are producing astaxanthin from algae. They don’t perform extensive quality testing.”
Speaking to Nutritional Outlook on NAXA’s vetting processes, association president Steinford says, “All current members have gone through third-party testing to ensure the product they produce is derived from Haematococcus pluvialis. We vet new companies by testing their products at independent laboratories, visiting their facility, and requiring them to adhere to the association’s bylaws and code of ethics and business practices.” For instance, NAXA says it “physically visited” new member Yunnan Alphy Biotech’s facilities and tested the company’s product.
Steinford says NAXA’s Natural Astaxanthin Verification Program, which is now rolling out to its members, is for “raw-material producers which have met the standards of the program as confirmed by independent lab testing.” And he adds that the company has begun testing finished retail products using independent labs. “We expect to establish a standard to apply to consumer products to ensure the verification of natural astaxanthin as derived from Haematococcus pluvialis,” he adds.
Still, AstaReal maintains that “although all NAXA member companies produce astaxanthin from H. pluvialis, there are vast differences in the cultivation technology, quality standards, and research capabilities of each company.” Kuncewitch said that by separating itself from NAXA, AstaReal plans to emphasize the advantages of its ingredients over other suppliers’. “We have a truly unique cultivation process that produces the purest and highest-potency astaxanthin available,” he said in the press release. “AstaReal is the most studied brand of astaxanthin; our material has been used in the majority of human clinical studies. And we are the only producer offering a stable supply of ‘Made in the USA’ natural astaxanthin, produced in Moses Lake, WA.”
On competition between NAXA members, Steinford says, “Every raw-material ingredient manufacturer has a standard of quality and benefit they consider superior to all others. The purpose of NAXA, or any trade association, is not to impose one company’s standard of quality on all others but to raise awareness and education of, in this case, natural algae astaxanthin and build a greater awareness of the benefits associated with same.”
On the educational front, AstaReal did note the value of NAXA’s initiatives so far. “We are extremely proud of the seminal work we have done with NAXA. Especially during the first year of its existence, NAXA presented an extremely valuable message to the public about the many concerns and unanswered questions about using synthetic astaxanthin in human nutritional supplements,” said Kazuyuki Miyakawa, chief scientific advisor, AstaReal, in the press release.
Miyakawa said that this is a message AstaReal hopes to continue conveying on its own: “AstaReal will continue to independently educate consumers that only natural astaxanthin from H. pluvialis should be used in supplements and functional foods and beverages.”
Nutritional Outlook magazine