“The container arrived at Felixstowe in Suffolk and passed border inspection no problem,” David Scrivens, the managing director of the Irish supplier in question, Willows Ingredients, told us.
Scrivens said he expects to import about 500 tonnes of raw glucosamine from China this year – about two containers per week.
The law changes implemented by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) were provoked by quality and sourcing concerns about animal-sourced product coming into the EU from China.
The new rules stipulate that animal-sourced versions of these ingredients must come from certain EU-certified countries and be backed by strict quality controls. A list of EU-preferred countries and producers can be found here .
The change was welcomed by vegetarian suppliers of the nutrients that are typically used in joint health food supplements, but Scrivens said supply of animal-sourced material was guaranteed into the UK and Ireland, from Willows at least.
“There has been a lot scaremongering around this but the factory of our local partner is certified for food quality so we have no problem meeting the new specifications.”
He said Willows, which turned over €13m in 2013, was the only supplier that could claim CIQ status that verifies the safety and quality of material at source in China.
The firm derives 30%+ of its income from its glucosamine business.
The EU and other member states are looking at the position adopted in the UK and it is possible the same restrictions may be introduced across the bloc.
The new UK position applies to raw materials only, not pre-packaged products like food supplements, a potential loophole Scrivens observed.
“This is not really protecting consumers and there are questions about this that we are asking going forward,” he said. “From other testing we know that some contract manufacturing in China leaves a lot to be desired so this part of the law may need to be looked at too.”
Glucosamine and chitosan are commonly derived from shrimp shells whereas chondroitin is derived from cartilage, usually shark origin but can also of beef, pork or poultry origin.
Vegetarian sources of glucosamine include corn.