By Carl Hruza
When I started my health business in 1998 I took a fairly conventional approach to product formulation. I had an idea for a potentially beneficial vitamin supplement formula which I’d researched extensively, and was at the stage where it was ready for manufacture.
Most new supplement companies start out by sourcing a contract manufacturer with a lab facility and a good reputation. They pay for testing, reformulating, manufacture, bottling, labeling and in some cases, product fulfillment.
My approach was no different and it seemed a fairly logical and straightforward process. However, during my first month of working with my chosen manufacturer, I discovered a serious problem.
Most eGMP supplement manufacturers issue something called a ‘Certificate of Analysis’. It’s basically an in-house lab test on the supplement which details things like purity, it’s level of contamination, it’s projected shelf-life, etc.
What it did not detail, nor by law is it necessary to include, is the processes used for taking the raw materials from source to the manufacturer. Most vitamin supplement manufacturers buy the raw ingredients and they arrive with a spec sheet from the supplier.
The details of this spec sheet are not reprinted on the manufacturers C of A so the purchaser (in this case me) does not get to see the first stage of the process where the product is collected, harvested etc and processed for pre-manufacture.
What I discovered, after a good deal of digging and making a nuisance of myself, was that the ingredients which were the core of my supplement had been pasteurized at source. This was initially denied by the manufacturer since it hadn’t been made clear on the C of A they received with the raw ingredients from a reputable supplier in Asia.
Now what does this mean to the consumer?
Had I not been diligent in finding the origin of my raw ingredients and learning about the pre-manufacturing stages, I would never have known that the supplement I planned to unleash on the marketplace contained pasteurized ingredients. Why would anyone pasteurize a vitamin supplement?
In my case I was using a formula containing products from the beehive – royal jelly, bee pollen, propolis and honey. All of these substances start life in a semi-liquid form, they each contain water. In the case of royal jelly, as much as 67% water. Once the substances are removed from the sanitary environment of the hive they need to be processed within a few hours to prevent spoiling. In the case of my product, it was to be exported from China to the USA in liquid form and thus needed to be pasteurized to secure it against contamination.
But as we know, the pasteurization process involves heat, and it’s essential to the integrity of nutritional products that no heat is used during the processing.
This doesn’t just affect beehive products, it effects a wide range of other nutritional supplements which require dehydration or other methods for removing the water content and extending their shelf-life.
Can pasteurization be avoided?
Yes it can, but there needs to be a conscious effort on behalf of the manufacturer to do so. Unfortunately, many seem to turn a blind eye. Some raw ingredient processors can take a product from the source and remove its water content without it ever needing to be pasteurized.
This process is common practice in the food industry and it is termed ‘freeze drying’ or lyophilizing. If you’re familiar with the term ‘freeze dried coffee’ then you may understand what’s involved. Basically, cold air is blasted across the liquid/moist product until it is dehydrated to a specific percentage of water content.
Bee pollen can be partially dehydrated in this way and some moisture is retained in the pollen granules. Royal jelly is generally dehydrated to the point where 99% or more of its water content is removed. This process removes only water and does not generally affect the nutritional quality of integrity of the finished product. It can be used to extend the shelf-life of a product for 4 years or more, in many cases.
It’s hard to estimate what percentage of supplements on the market have had some form of heat processing during their manufacturing, but I suspect it is quite high. I know of several people in the bee product industry who sell ‘fresh liquid royal jelly with live enzymes intact’ when the product has actually been pasteurized.
As a consumer, there’s little you can do unless you’re prepared to undertake some extensive questioning of your prospective supplier(s). A question like “how do you ensure the nutritional integrity of the product is retained throughout all stages of processing and have your products ever been exposed to heat?”.
These are valid questions though you’ll often meet with a less than friendly response, if any at all. But it can mean the difference between you consuming a supplement which has been rendered impotent, versus one which is still very much live and potent, nutritionally speaking.
Carl Hruza resolved his manufacturing issues and now supplies natural health products with their full nutritional benefits intact.