Adulterated bilberry extracts on the rise in the US

BilberryDietary supplements that include counterfeit bilberry extracts are on the rise in the face of escalating raw material prices, according to the American Botanical Council (ABC).

The organisation notes in the latest edition of its Herbalgram journal that demand for high-cost, wild-harvested berries mean that the market is "rife with economic adulteration", with ingredients such as amaranth dye, charcoal, black soybean hulls and black rise hulls known to be used in place of genuine extracts.

"Most of this adulteration is intentional, and not an accident based on poor or inadequate use of quality control techniques," says the ABC, which noes that some of the adulterants are clearly selected to fool laboratory testing.

Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) is included in supplements and herbal remedies as a source of anthocyanosides and are claimed to provide a number of health benefits, including management of retinopathy and vascular conditions such as venous insufficiency and capillary fragility.

HerbalGram notes that bilberry fruit extracts are among the best-selling herbal remedies in the US and is also widely sold as a phytomedicine in Europe, but can be prone to interruptions in supply as all stocks are harvested from the wild, mainly in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.

Bilberry products were the 15th most popular dietary supplement in the US last year with an estimated market value of a little over $1.5m.

The health risks associated with the affected bilberry products have not been established, but clearly any product adulterated with an unknown ingredient fails quality standards and by extension poses a potential risk to consumers.

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