Chondroitin quality concerns strictly linked to price, says UK supplier

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags China

Chondroitin quality concerns strictly linked to price, says UK supplier
Unusually inflated or deflated prices should alert food supplement manufacturers to the potential of adulterated or substandard chondroitin, says the managing director of UK supplier, Gee Lawson.

The Chinese-dominated supply continues to raise red flags, with our sister site NutraIngredients-USA.com yesterday reporting on ongoing quality control concerns about chondroitin there, but Jonathan Shorts said while QC issues remained a factor with the joint health nutrient, thorough QC testing and price awareness could guarantee quality material.

“There are quality issues around chondroitin as there have always been companies that don’t have quality in mind,” ​Shorts said, acknowledging that since something like 80% or more of the chondroitin supply was derived in China, so to did most of the problems.

“It is not just the Chinese. Material also comes from New Zealand, Australia, Vietnam, India. But there have always been certain players that can guarantee quality.”

Shark sourced chondroitin trades at about €75/kg whereas porcine, bovine and avian material can trade for half that price.

Third party testers in the US are reporting high fail rates for chondroitin, a fact Shorts acknowledged, and which only exemplified the need to increase testing.

“We have had failed batch tests and we take action to deal with that when it happens. That is why we have a QC programme in place, in addition to our own intelligence activity to ensure quality.”

Supplement makers spoken to by NutraIngredients confirmed a known source of the problem by stating they bought chondroitin at substantially reduced prices and conducted little, if any, batch testing of the material that arrived in their warehouses.

Mafia market?

A team of Belgian researchers that have been conducting a chondroitin investigation say the quality problem has been compounded by the existence of a Chinese chondroitin cartel.

One of the researchers, Michel Van Cauwenberge, told NutraIngrdients that several supplements makers had confirmed the existence of a cartel that was controlling price and receiving favourable treatment from the Chinese government.

“One of our sources even went as far as calling it a mafia market, where chondroitin suppliers that offered lower prices are threatened until they comply,”​ he said, noting the investigation would continue in the Chinese pavillion at the Vitafoods Europe trade show in Geneva, Switzerland, in a few weeks.

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QA director

Posted by Mr Adam J. Payne,

Any insight on what the failed material is? We are getting some failed tests back on Chinese Chondroitin.

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I agree with you totally on the two-way problem

Posted by Charlie,

But as for the part of the chondrotin cartel backed by Chinese government as claimed in the article, I think the author is either clueless or exagerating. First of all, chondroitin sulfate production generates a lot of environmental problems and those manufacturers are not welcomed by local people and local government. There were used to be many small manufacturers in Southern China provinces like Zhejiang province. They were chased away from those places by local goverment because of pollution and they moved to north. Secondly, chondrotin sulfate, comparing to vitamin C, is very small in quantity and financial scale. The players are mostly if not all private company, comparing to the state-owned vitamin C manufacturing enterprises. Those small players have no way to form cartel like strong coalition to fix price. As a matter of fact, those small players only make a small margin because of fierce price competition. Thirdly, China does not consume too much of its chondrotin, the majority of it is exported. You know ther are many channels and numerous agents involved in chondroitin sulfate trading and exporting, nobody can have the power to control other's pricing.

But, i heard of stories like in some small town, if there are a few manaufacturers competing each other, some of them might stand out saying to others you can not sell at price lower than mine. But to say there is national wide cartel supported by Chinese government is just out of touch.

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A real problem

Posted by Moonglum,

I do agree that companies knowingly buy raw materials at half the market price, and only raise the chinese flag when they get caught. This clearly highlights that we have a two-way problem here and both problems needs to be addressed.

With that being said...there is also a real problem in China with these cartels, and anyone following the Vitamin C dumping and price fixing case would know that.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/11/us-china-vitaminc-idUSTRE72A4XH20110311

The companies involved in the case have basically admitted to dumping and price fixing...and their defense...the Chinese government made me do it.

I think we all know that this dumping and price fixing case goes a lot deeper than just Vitamin C.

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