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The Material
Chondroitin sulfate was first isolated from cartilage tissues of domesticated farm animals in the 1950s. Chondroitin sulfate sodium is a polysaccharide related to glycosaminoglycans and it is used as a dietary ingredient for supplementation to provide joint comfort and support joint health. Harvesting of the material became widespread in the 1990s and industrial processes were developed and advanced over the past decade as the market for the material grew. In the U.S. market, sales of Chondroitin sulfate sodium materials, together with various forms of glucosamine, an amino sugar, reached an estimated $235 million in 2012. The combination of glucosamine and chondroitin became far and away the most popular and widely used joint health supplement. According to the U.S. Customs data, more than 90% of the chondroitin sulfate sodium materials were imported, mostly from China, and from Spain and Thailand.

Synutra Ingredients Leads Industry in Fighting Chondroitin Adulteration
Through consistent field monitoring of chondroitin supplies in the source market, Synutra Ingredients has become aware that there had been serious material adulteration in the supply chain.

In the past 10 years or so, the chondroitin sulfate supply chain experienced a lot of stress due to volatility of commodity prices and raw material costs that swing with agricultural seasonality as well as supply and demand. With a number of nutritional ingredients, commoditization vs. branded ingredients became a familiar controversy that was essentially quality vs. low price, but this was particularly marked in the chondroitin sector. Many of the upstream producers and vendors were squeezed hard. As the downstream supplement industry went for margins, sourcing standards became lax and more inferior materials came into the supply chain. As a result, economically motivated adulteration has become a serious concern. The end result has been that the consumer’s experience with inferior finished products has eroded confidence in this beneficial supplement.

One or two known adulterants that are derived from brown algae are considered particularly worrisome. These seaweed-derived materials are inexpensive and readily available. They appear to spike up test results, appearing as chondroitin when added as adulterants, making an ingredient material appear more potent than it actually is. And they are not readily detected by commonly used testing procedures, so manufacturers buying these inferior materials may not know what they are adding to their products. The FDA has recently begun looking at alginic acid adulteration in particular. Alginic acid is an inexpensive stabilizer, thickener, gelling agent and emulsifier with no joint health benefits that, when added to or labeled as chondroitin, is not easily detected by usual testing methods.

Through pioneering work in development and application of effective testing methodologies, Synutra Ingredients leads the industry in detecting material adulteration in chondroitin sulfate supplies and guarantees material purity in both manufactured materials and in screening third-party vendor materials.