Quality control: material identification
January 23rd, 2014 by Marianne Boivin, M.Sc.
A quality supplement begins with a well conceived formula and quality ingredients. How do we make sure that the ingredients we use are really those that are indicated on the label? How do we verify the purity of the ingredients that are found in Land Art products? Our quality control labs take this question very seriously.
Each raw material received is analysed before it is used in our products. First, identification is established in accordance with the quality assurance certificate provided by the supplier when the material is originally received. A sample is then taken and the organoleptic properties are confirmed (color, odor, texture). This observation is fine but far from sufficient. We then use an identification process by infrared spectroscopy.
Identification by infrared spectroscopy (IR spectroscopy) is a process that provides a “chemical profile” which is drawn up by a machine called a spectrophotometer. A sample of the matter to be tested is placed in the machine and an infrared ray is passed through the sample. Each wave length produced represent characteristics of the molecular structure of the sample and draws a profile. This profile is then compared by superimposing the obtained profile with a reference profile for identification.
Here is an example:
These two plant roots could easily be misidentified. However, the curves of their respective chemical profiles are not identical. Even though they look alike, the circled areas indicate that they really are two different materials.
The sample on the left is Devil’s Claw. A plant with anti-inflammatory properties used to relieve arthritis pain. The plant on the right is elecampane (also known as horse-heal) used for its high content of insulin and for its effects on the lungs. Elecampane is a plant from the Asteraceae (daisy, camomile) family, a family of plants that provoke undesirable effects for those who are allergic to them.
Without checking the chemical profile, they could easily be mistaken. You can imagine the devastating effects if, by mistake, we ended up with elecampane instead of Devil’s claw in our reputable Glucosamine 2000 product. We bet the results would be less than impressive!
Now we look at the sample’s profile compared to its reference profile. The curves are identical.
And this is our machine, the infrared spectrometer:
These rigorous identification methods are costly but allow us to ensure that raw materials (and consequently the finished product) are pure and free of contaminants from other species or ingredients. They also allow us to avoid substitution mistakes.
Do not hesitate to contact the manufacturers of products that you take to verify what identification methods they use.