Sabinsa putting deceptive amla manufacturers on notice for mischaracterizing vitamin C content

June 18, 2020

Sabinsa Corp. is calling attention to the practice of mischaracterizing the herb amla (Emblica officinalis) to be a valuable source of vitamin C.

Sabinsa Corp. (East Windsor, NJ) is calling attention to the practice of mischaracterizing the herb amla (Emblica officinalis) to be a valuable source of vitamin C. Vitamin C only occurs in amla in trace amounts, making it not economically feasible to isolate and extract vitamin C up to 25% from the raw material. However, there are products on the market claiming to offer 25% weight for weight (w/w) vitamin C derived from amla. In analyzing a sample of such a product, Sabinsa determined that the vitamin C content was from fermentation, and not vitamin C naturally occurring in amla.

“The major source of vitamin C is through fermentation. If suppliers buy fermentation-derived vitamin C and blend it with their amla extract to claim as high as 25% w/w of vitamin C, they should disclose this,” said Sabinsa founder and chairman Muhammed Majeed, PhD. “This unethical practice is not easily detected by normal analytical methods for vitamin C analysis. It is also not distinguishable by C14 radiocarbon content method, either. But there are other analytical methods to expose this repugnant practice.”

Using Isotopic Ratio Mass Spectrometry (IRMS), Sabinsa determined that vitamin C from fermentation -which uses carbohydrates with C4-plant origin as raw material - will typically have C13/C12 isotopic composition characteristic of C4-plants measured as 13δC of about -10. If derived from amla, a typical C3-plant, vitamin C will have a value of 13δC of about -29. IRMS analysis of an amla extract labeled as organic with 25% vitamin C found its value of 13δC to be -11.6 for vitamin C isolated from the product, which Sabinsa says traces the origin of vitamin C to be derived by fermentation.

To confirm this conclusion, Sabinsa isolated beta-glucogallin, a secondary metabolite of amla, from the commercially available high-vitamin C amla product and analyzed that for its 13δC content. The value was -25.7 showing that the amla's secondary metabolites will have 13δC values expected for a C3-plant. Therefore, vitamin C from amla should also have 13δC value of about -25 instead of the measured value of -11.6.

“Because we have the science and expertise to unravel this unscrupulous practice, tarnishing one of India’s beloved and cherished fruits will not be tolerated,” said Sabinsa president worldwide, Shaheen Majeed, in a press release. “We have identified a few companies practicing this deception, and will be filing notices to them in the weeks ahead. We hope the industry will appreciate and adopt the methodology we’ve disclosed, so no further deception occurs.”