EN: The PhytoAuthent project adheres to the health and food theme of the EEA call and addresses current ambiguity in the herbal dietary supplements market in Romania. The project uses a complex and integrative multidisciplinary approach to covering all aspects from legal framework, manufacturing process, suppliers, and consumers to safety issues and authentication.
The European Economic Area (EEA) lacks a central public institution to test the composition of herbal products and to verify ingredient claims included on the label. In the USA, consumerlab.org performs independent tests on commercially available dietary supplements and makes its findings available for an administrative fee. Scientific literature has reported several cases of adulteration and counterfeiting of such products, and the results of most studies imply that substitution occurs widely. This raises serious concerns on ethics, safety and efficacy. In addition, unrestricted sale and access and the lack of medical oversight to dietary supplements hampers quality monitoring.
Romania is both a major consumer and exporter of raw materials and processed supplements, and it is therefore extremely important to make a comprehensive and critical evaluation of its herbal dietary supplements industry in order to identify its vulnerabilities and to develop models for improved regulation. The European Union directives on food safety and takes into consideration consumer rights to make informed choices about the products they use, and fair and accurate labelling of products is an essential part of that.
This project involves local SME herbal producers with the aim of taking a participatory and integrated approach to gain understanding of the challenges and manufacturing process of quality dietary supplements. Different product authentication methods exists, and this project will research, screen and evaluate the accuracy, reliability, effort and cost of these methods for 5 selected medicinal plant cases. The focus will be on new and innovative methods using chemical analysis, DNA barcoding and metabarcoding using next generation sequencing. The project is based on herbal industry knowledge needs, as aims to yield higher quality standards at equal production costs.
RESULTS (documents in English)