Manufacturing Vitamins - Post-Processing and Nutritional Quality
The focus of this study is to examine the affects of stabilizing the raw ingredients, with a particular emphasis on royal jelly and propolis.
Royal jelly is widely marketed as having ‘live nutrients’ and having ‘nutrients intact’. But does it?
Firstly, one must understand that bee products are classified by the FDA as ‘Food Substances’ and not herbs or vitamins as many people expect. Handling of foods is very closely regulated, with a great deal of attention placed on potential for contamination caused by bacterial or microbial activity. To reduce the risk to humans, a basic requirement of food handling is that products with a high water content must be pasteurized. This applies to many substances found on our grocery store shelves, including -
- Canned food
- Dairy Products
- Low Alcoholic Beverages
Yes, even water is widely pasteurized. Pasteurization is a process of heating a food substance with a high water content to a specific temperature for a specific period of time, and then cooling it rapidly. Pasteurization was conceived and perfected by Louis Pasteur and Claude Bernard in April 1862, and initially used as a way of preventing wine and beer from souring. The process is technically a chemical process designed to slow down microbial growth in food and to kill off harmful organisms such as viruses, bacteria, molds and yeasts. Most people are familiar with the process as it applies to raw milk, but generally balk at the idea of juices and other dairy products being pasteurized.
There are two main types of process used in the food industry – High Temperature/Short Time (HTST) and “Extended Shelf Life (ESL)” treatment. A third option of Ultra-high temperature (UHT or ultra-heat treated) is also used for milk treatment. The methods of Pasteurization are standardized and controlled by Federal food safety agencies, these agencies lay down standards for different types of products and the differing processes involved.
In the supplement industry, it is important to understand the supply chain procedure which applies to vitamin supplements, their raw ingredients and the processes involved along the line.
Most royal jelly, some propolis, some bee pollen and some honey, is ‘lyophilized‘ as a means of removing the water for post-processing. Why do we want to remove the water? – well, if we don’t, we have to treat it with a preservative which minimize the microbial growth and mitigates the risk of toxic contamination.
Most nutritional supplement users reject the use of preservatives and demand a product more natural and chemical free. Plus, it’s generally easier to package a powder than it is to package a liquid, particularly into small one-dose capsules.
So what if we really want to ‘market’ the product as a liquid, as many do in the case of royal jelly?
There are some options -
1 -Add a strong preservative
2 – Use powdered royal jelly and re-constitute it with ionized water
3 – Pasteurize it
Actually, in most cases, the process of pasteurization is applied somewhere along the supply chain to all of the above.
What if we absolutely demand a product that has not been pasteurized?
You may think that buying lyophilized (freeze-dried) powder is a sure way to obtain non-heat treated royal jelly (or other vitamins derived from a liquid or semi-liquid source), but it really isn’t, and here’s why -
Only a handful (not even) of manufacturers have in-house capability for lyophilization here in the USA, and those that do generally purchase their raw ingredients from overseas. In these cases, the royal jelly may be pasteurized at source (perhaps in China), shipped into the USA and then processed into powder for capsulation.
So as a USA based supplier, you actually have few choices to ensure the nutritional integrity of your product -
Buy bulk lyophilized powder from suppliers in Asia who can show via internal standards and procedures that the raw materials have been processed into powder within a short time period of leaving the hive (usually a couple of hours at the most).
Source royal jelly / propolis here in the USA and oversee its post-processing. [read a short overview of bee product manufacturing]
It is clearly a complex process, further complicated by the fact that many suppliers make very erroneous claims about the origin of their products. I know several who market themselves as “bee farmers”, the inference being that they produce their own raw materials, when the truth is something very different – they use contract manufacturers who simply buy their powders in bulk from whatever source is the cheapest (China).