In 2001, the Association of Analytical Communities (AOAC International) joined forces with the National Institute of Health (NIH), the Office of Dietary Supplements and the US Food & Drug Administration to begin identifying methods for testing dietary supplement ingredients. MSM (methylsulfonylmethane, the isoxidised form of dimethyl-sulfoxide) was selected as one of approximately 20 nutraceutical compounds in the project, because it was deemed to be an ingredient well suited to standardized testing and likely to succeed. The single lab validation for MSM is wrapping-up, and now AOAC requires a study director and between ten and 12 laboratories. "We're not going to identify the labs until will have a study director in place," AOAC director of publications & method validation programs, Robert Rathbone, told NutraIntredients-USA. The study director and labs participate on a voluntary basis. "Generally the work is done by industry support," said Rathbone. "The message from NIH in 2002 was 'get industry involved', so that's what we're relying on at this time." Industry's motivation in getting involved in such standardization initiatives is to strengthen its credibility in light of unreliable marketers who make unfounded claims. "The purpose of the (NIH) contract was originally to have analytical methods to level the playing field," said Rathbone. "To get rid of those individuals that make wild claims and to help promote quality products to the consumer." Joseph Zhou of NOW Foods has been the study coordinator for the MSM single laboratory validation studies to date. According to AOAC, the preliminary data of the methods appear very good. Plans are to carry out two collaborative studies simultaneously beginning this spring. To ensure accuracy in methods and results, AOAC said it has a stringent review process to verify the work of the voluntary labs and industry participants. "We have a firewall in place," said Rathbone. "A committee process involved rugged review before the method is accepted." Nine standardized methods have already been completed since the project's inception and involve compounds including beta-carotene, glucosamine, gingo flavonoles and saw palmetto. Over a dozen validation methods - for ingredients such as chondroitin sulfate, CoQ10, gingo, ginseng, isoflavone, lutein, lycopene, omega-3, SAME and vitamin E - are still undergoing studies.