AlgaeHealth advocates for more sensitive glyphosate testing in astaxanthin sector

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

BGG produces its astaxanthin in southwestern China. BGG photo
BGG produces its astaxanthin in southwestern China. BGG photo
Astaxanthin supplier AlgaeHealth has announced its product has tested as free of glyphosate, down to a detection level in the parts per trillion.

Bob Capelli, head of global sales for the firm, which is a division of Chinese company BGG, said there are glyphosate free certifications in the marketplace that test to levels of parts per billion.

But he said a presentation at a meeting sponsored by the Organic and Natural Health Association in Florida laid out the importance of a finer level of detection. That presentation, by John Fagan, PhD, CEO of HRI (Health Research Institute) Labs rested on published research on rats.

Widespread use of chemical

Glyphosate, commonly known as Roundup, is one of the most widely used agricultural chemical in the world. The herbicide, which was first brought to market by Monsanto, has been paired with Monsanto’s GMO crop varieties specifically designed to be immune to the chemical.

The herbicide has long been touted as safe by its manufacturers, but more and more health advocates have raised concerns about its widespread use and its ubiquity in the environment.

Many alarm bells have been sounded about the ‘possible dangers’ of exposure to man made chemicals in the environment at low levels. A consensus statement published in journal Environmental Health​ alleged that use of glyphosate had increased 100 fold from the 1970s to 2016​. Capelli said what caught his attention was that Fagan had some actual research to point to about the possible health effects of these exposures.

“He made a very convincing reference to peer reviewed research,”​ he said.

Concerns with chronic, low-level exposure

NutraIngredients-USA spoke with Fagan about his organization, based in Fairfield, IA, and the importance of the new testing. Fagan referred to a study published in 2015, also in Environmental Health​, ​that showed that chronic glyphosate exposure at 50 parts per trillion caused transcriptome changes in rat liver cells. This equated to liver damage, the researchers maintained.

Fagan said he collaborated on a paper published last year in JAMA that showed the exposure to glyphosate has increased markedly over time​. Fagan also said that in addition to the rat transcriptome study, other research has pointed to low level, chronic exposure to the chemical with biomarkers indicative of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. It all adds up, Fagan said, to a need for more sensitive testing for the presence of this chemical.

Finer-grained testing called for

Fagan, who was trained in biochemistry at Cornell University and is a former principal in the firm Global ID Group, said HRI Labs is offering testing that rests on existing equipment, just used in a different way.

“If you have a Tesla you can drive it like a Chevrolet or you can push it to its theoretical limits,” ​Fagan said.

“We have some of the best analytical equipment that’s available globally in the marketplace. The USDA has the same equipment as do many of the commercial labs. But they test to thresholds that are sometimes orders of magnitude higher than what the equipment is capable of,” ​he said. “They are not testing to 30 parts per trillion; they are testing to 10 parts per billion in some cases.”

“I am concerned that the rapidly increasing incidence of fatty liver disease in Americans may be due to the widespread use of glyphosate. In addition, levels of glyphosate may be an indicator for risk of other contaminants. We encourage all food and supplement manufacturers to have their products tested to the parts per trillion level to ensure that their supply chain is clean and to avoid potential consumer health issues,”​ Fagan said.

Capelli said testing done at HRI Labs has indicated its flagship astaxanthin product, branded as AstaZine Natural Astaxanthin, has tested 100% Glyphosate-Free to a level of detection ranging from less than 26 to 50 parts per trillion in independent laboratory testing. BGG produces its astaxanthin in a closed-cell tube facility in southwestern China.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Mercola was the primary financial source of ONHA ​which suggested that Mercola controls the organization.  As noted by ONHA's ​President Todd Harrison, ONHA is not controlled, financially or otherwise, by Dr. Mercola.  Mercola is simply a member of the Association that has a seat on the board.  We stand corrected and apologize for our mischaracterization of Mercola’s relationship with the Association.   

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