Could the supplement industry benefit from holographic printing?

The New York State attorney general’s office has demanded that fraudulent herbal supplements be removed from the shelves of major retailers in the US, but could holographic printing help in the prevention of fraudulent supplements?

A number of supplements were investigated by the US Food and Drug Administration using DNA barcoding, a test which has also been used to combat labelling fraud in the seafood industry. The test found that four out of five supplements did not contain any DNA of the ingredients listed on the label. Furthermore, in many cases, the supplements were found to contain additional DNA of unlisted ingredients, such as gluten, nuts and soybeans, that could prove dangerous to people with allergies.

In the US, the FDA requires that companies verify their supplement ingredients, but they are exempt from the strict rules that apply to pharmaceutical products meaning holographic printing isn’t legally required. A spokesperson for the FDA said: “These products are not subject to FDA’s premarket review or approval requirements for safety and effectiveness, nor to the agency’s rigorous manufacturing and testing standards for drugs.” As a result, the supplement system operated on an honour code, and has never been investigated until now. However, due to the potential danger presented by the products, all the retailers involved, including Target and Walgreens, have been ordered to remove the offending products from the shelves. At present, the labels on supplements do not contain any holographic printing verification of authenticity, nor any protection against copycats.

Many other industries, in particular the pharmaceutical industry, already benefit from the verification properties of holographic printing. Adding a tamper-evident holographic sticker to packaging allows it to be tracked, traced and verified as authentic. It will also highlight if attempts have been made to tamper with the product.

Should the supplement industry adopt similar holographic printing security features, consumers can be more confident the product they are purchasing is authentic, while producers of genuine supplementary products can protect their product and brand from copies.