Research and Development of an herbal and fish product authentication service using DNA barcoding. Funded by Department of Biotechnology (DBT) New Delhi
Medicinal plants and their products are extensively used within the indigenous health care systems in India and several other countries. India exports over 5000 metric tonnes per year of these specific herbal products and the demand for natural health product market is growing at approximately 10-15% annually. There are currently more than 1000 companies producing medicinal plant products with annual revenues in excess of $5 billion. These statistics are indicative of the rapid growth in the marketplace for plant products and the broadening consumer base interested in herbal products from India. However, ingredient substitution is a common problem to the herbal industries, where species of a lower market value are substituted for those of a higher value. This practice constitutes not only food fraud, but according to the World Health Organization, the adulteration of herbal products is a threat to consumer safety. Eroding consumer confidence is driving the demand for a product authentication service.
In this project was one hundred and fifty medicinal plant species were shortlisted and a reference database for DNA-based identification of herbal products was developed. Using this DNA barcoding technology, samples of herbal products from different companies and traders in India were authenticated. Rampant adulteration of most of the herbal products was found. The DNA barcode database that has been developed could be used to authenticate trade industry products, thereby helping herbal industries to improve the quality of their products.