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Industry News
February 16, 2010

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Vitamin Retailer News
Wakunaga of American Completes Major Plant Expansion
Wakunaga of American Co., Ltd. (Mission Viejo, CA) recently held a daylong grand opening ceremony in Riverside County to mark the completion of its largest plant expansions in the United States in four decades. This will be Wakunaga’s third facility in Southern California.

Wakunaga of America, a subsidiary of Osaka, Japan-based Wakunaga Pharmaceutical Co., has been involved in the research, development, manufacturing and marketing of high-end nutritional and herbal supplements since 1972. Wakunaga’s product lines prove a variety of health benefits including cardiovascular, immune and digestive areas.

A key component of the new plant is additional production and distribution capacity. The new building will contain offices and laboratories and quality control, packaging, shipping and storage facilities.

“We have been growing so steadily over the last 10 years that we had to expand our operations capabilities to meet consumer demand for our products,” said Kenro Nakamura, president and CEO of Wakunaga of America.

For more information, visit www.kyolic.com.

Irwin Naturals Settles Case for $2.65 Million, Say They Are Compliant
Irwin Naturals Inc. (Los Angeles, CA) has agreed to pay $2.65 million in what prosecutors say is the largest settlement by a dietary supplement manufacturer for unfair business practices in California.

The 10 district attorneys that sued the Los Angeles-based company over misleading advertising signed the settlement on February 1, 2011.

Prosecutors accused the company of marketing products with more than the amount of lead allowed under a state measure requiring disclosure of any carcinogens, advertised hoodia products that didn’t contain the herb and failed to reimburse customers for returns. The company sells its products in retail stores and through direct sales.

An investigative team found that the products did not contain hoodia and some contained 10 times the legal limit of lead. Irwin Naturals could not confirm these findings because no validated test method exists for identifying hoodia in the soft gel product form used by the company. The company relied instead on the industry standard method of confirming the input of hoodia, and all manufacturing records confirmed that hoodia had been put in to the products.

Irwin Naturals was told to label its products with warnings about lead and reimburse customers for returns. The investigation did not result in either a product recall or reformulation. The settlement doesn’t require the company to acknowledge fault or liability.

“We stand by our products, as we have for 15 years, and this settlement acknowledges that our products are safe and that we are in compliance with California laws,” said Rebecca Pearman, an Irwin Naturals, Inc. spokesperson. “As a trusted name in the nutritional supplement business, we are committed to best industry practices in manufacturing, quality assurance and labeling to ensure the quality and safety of our products and our continued leadership position in the industry. California has some of the most stringent labeling laws in the nation, and in complying with those, we will continue to strive to meet or exceed all national requirements for our industry.”

Consumers with questions about eligibility for refunds under the settlement can call Irwin Naturals at (800) 941-9098.

Organic Products Retailer News
Organic Scholarship Winner Goes From Field to Farm Policy
With the First Lady encouraging everyone to eat healthier foods, one segment of society has a bigger challenge in accomplishing that: lower-income households.

To help solve the problem of limited access to fresh, affordable organic food in urban areas is the mission of Evelyn Rosas. After receiving the Simply Organic Scholarship Award for the apprenticeship in ecological horticulture at the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC), Rosas joined one of three-dozen aspiring organic farmers planting, cultivating and harvesting organic crops on a 25-acre farm at UCSC. She planned to return home to Texas to begin putting her mission into action.

However, Rosas is now making a brief detour to Washington, D.C. There, she is doing a three-month internship with the policy office of the Organic Farming Research Foundation. “I’m not shying away from farming,” she said. “Rather, I’m becoming a more informed and active farmer, so I can better express the needs of organic farmers through advocacy groups while improving availability of organically grown food to low-income households.

“I’m very concerned about the members of Congress who are dubious about organic farming, and their lack of education about the many benefits of organic agriculture,” Rosas added. “People who support organic products need to do a better job of getting the message out and educating others on the benefits of organic agriculture, not just for eating, but for the environment.”

In the Austin, TX, area near her home, Rosas said she witnessed the immense community impact of City Farm, a non-profit urban farm, and Urban Roots, a non-profit farm program for youth. That fueled her desire to establish organic farms that serve urban areas. “My scholarship to the UCSC program enabled me to pursue my dream,” she confirmed.

Spike in Investment Activity Envisaged in European Organic Food Industry
A spike in investment activity is expected in the European organic food industry as market growth rates rise and capital becomes more accessible. Organic Monitor predicts European sales of organic food and drink to rise by eight percent in 2011.

Growing industry confidence is leading to a flurry of mergers, acquisitions and investments. Although large companies are mainly investing, small-medium sized firms are also expanding in the improving economic climate.

Hain Celestial (Boulder, CO) has strengthened its European presence by recently acquiring two food companies. It has bought Danival (Andiran, France), a leading French producer of organic foods. GG Unique Fiber, a Norwegian natural foods company has also been acquired. Both companies will be integrated into the European operations of Hain Celestial.

The U.S. natural and organic food company is slowly building a global presence. Hain Celestial has a strong market position across various product categories in North America. Apart from Europe, it also has its sights on Asia. It has a strategic tie-up with Hutchison China Meditech (Hong King, China), and recently launched organic infant formula in the Chinese market.

Another major deal in recent months involves Léa Nature (La Rochelle, France), which has become the leading French organic food company. It made an investment in Ekibio (Peaugres, France) in December. Ekibio is involved in the manufacture and distribution of organic foods. Léa Nature is a highly diversified enterprise, involved in nutraceuticals, natural cosmetics, ethical textiles as well as organic foods.

Organic Monitor expects more such investment activity. Royal Wessanen (Amsterdam, The Netherlands) is tipped to acquire more organic food companies in 2011. The Dutch firm has been divesting companies in North America so it can focus on the organic food industry in Europe. Its recent divestment was Panos Brands to a private equity firm in December.

In the UK, Abel & Cole (London, England) is being eyed by a number of supermarket chains. Abel & Cole operates the largest home delivery scheme for organic products in the UK. Green & Black’s another leading organic food company, is rumored to be the subject of a management buyout. In 2005, the organic confectionary firm was acquired by Cadbury’s, which was subsequently taken over by Kraft Foods a year ago.

Such investment activity is consolidating the organic food industry. Unlike North America, there remain a large number of small-medium sized firms in Europe. With healthy growth rates resuming and more capital becoming available, more deals are on the horizon.

Nutrition Industry Executive News
Fabricant Leaves NPA for FDA
After five years, Daniel Fabricant, PhD, resigned as vice president of global government and scientific affairs for the Natural Products Association (NPA) to serve as the FDA’s director of its Division of Dietary Supplement Programs. Fabricant will start his new position at the end of February.

This FDA position had been held by Vasilios Frankos, PhD, who left the agency in early 2010 to join the supplement company Herbalife as senior vice president of product compliance and safety.

Fabricant will transition his responsibilities to Cara Welch, PhD, and Liz Hurst who will continue to manage and oversee NPA’s collective scientific, regulatory and government affairs portfolio.

As NPA’s vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs, Fabricant directed the association’s GMP Certification Program, the NPA-U.S. Pharmacopoeia ingredient testing program based in China, and its natural certification and TruLabel programs. Additionally, he directed NPA’s participation as a subcontractor for the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements Dietary Supplement Label Database (DSLD) feasibility study. He served as a spokesperson for the NPA on scientific, regulatory and technical topics to association members, legislative bodies, regulatory agencies and the media, on the national, international and state level.

Fabricant obtained his doctorate in pharmacognosy at the University of Illinois at Chicago under the renowned professor Norman R. Farnsworth, and he received a bachelor’s of science in chemistry from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

IADSA Highlights Global Food Supplement Trends
The International Alliance of Dietary/Food Supplement Associations (IADSA) stated that while food supplement harmonization is already underway in the European Union, decisions are expected this year on key aspects of the Association of South East Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) similar harmonization process towards a regional legislation.

“Many countries are in the process of developing new regulatory frameworks, and regulators are increasingly monitoring the successes and challenges of similar initiatives across the globe,” said IADSA Chairman Peter Zambetti. “Therefore there is a greater need for high quality scientific and technical regulatory information to be shared among decision-makers, and IADSA facilitates this flow of information. We work towards ensuring regulatory guidelines that are appropriate to the specific characteristics of our products; regulations that will cover a broad range of safe ingredients with sufficient consumer information and appropriate manufacturing standards and technical requirements.”

At the national level, IADSA’s plans this year include working in China, Eastern Europe and Russia with regulators and academia to discuss regulatory issues related to food supplements.

Regionally, IADSA will also continue its focus on Latin America where, although no harmonization is taking place, it is working with regulatory bodies and the sector to help progress the solid regulatory steps that have been taken so far across the region.

At the global level, IADSA’s focus will remain on food additives, as the Codex Committee on Food Additives (CCFA) meets in March to consider whether to adopt key draft provisions for food additives used in food supplements worldwide. IADSA has also identified technical changes in relation to the Codex review of Nutrient Reference Values (NRVs) for vitamins and minerals, and some other initiatives such as the proposal to develop a standard for marine oils.

For more information, visit www.iadsa.org.

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