The manager of the unnamed importing firm has been arrested over the 2kg shipment that could have delivered about 80,000 DMAA doses into sports and other supplements – worth up to €1.6m, according to local press reports.
The bust came as part of a crackdown on the traffic of synthetic drugs from China to Bulgaria, most of which are sold as recreational drugs.
Although DMAA is typically used in pre-workout sports supplements that are present in many European and global markets, it has gained some notoriety as a party drug due to its stimulatory effects.
Regulators are paying it increasing attention as safety concerns rise and actions are taken such as the US military this month forcing military base retailers like GNC to remove DMAA-containing products such as Jack3D from shelves after two servicemen died with DMAA traces in their blood.
DMAA, which commonly goes by other names including 1,3-dimethylamylamine and methylhexaneamine (MHA), is not authorised for use in food supplements in the European Union, but is included in many weight loss and body building products – usually labeled as geranium extracts, as is the case with Jack3D.
But there is a growing consensus in the scientific community that DMAA is not sourced from geranium plants or extracts, but sourced only synthetically. Health Canada has ruled it a synthetic drug recently and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said it is looking into the issue.
In Europe too pressure mounts against DMAA. French authorities have confirmed that it is not authorised for use in food supplements in France even though products like Jack3D are freely on sale there – in retail outlets and online.
Italian authorities have been making their own investigations and have concluded that DMAA does not come geranium, which has actually come as a relief to geranium suppliers who feared having their products stripped from shelves – as the authorities have indicated they seek to do for DMAA-containing products.
An Italian herbal industry insider said a decision on any kind of enforcement action is expected within a month.
The UK medicines agency is considering whether Jack3D should be classified as a drug.
At the same time, USP Labs, the maker of Jack3D, has defended the safety and legality of its product, and pointed out studies highlighting DMAA’s geranium source, although much of this data has been questioned by many botanists.
DMAA and geranium extracts are banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and there have been doping violations, some of which are in process, and which may bring the possible adulteration issue to the public eye at greater intensity than has occurred to date.