Algae authenticity and traceability

A new analytical approach for authentication and traceability of plant & algae raw materials

Example with algae used in the cosmetic domain

Presentation at the PBS* of Nelly Dubrulle (DNA Gensee) & Pierre-Yves Morvan (Codif Technologie Naturelle)

* Plant Based Summit, 22-24 May 2019, Cité De Congrès – Lyon – France

Algae and microalgae are promising resources. These organisms are composed of a multitude of species with specific characteristics that give them particular biological and physiological properties. For several years now, the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries have begun to study and use this great diversity of species and thus their specific characteristics. Codif Technologie Naturelle develops many active ingredients and products thanks to the virtues that the marine environment offers.

alga evolution

Figure 1: Origin of algae: Bacteria and cyanobacteria are at the origin of life on earth. Their development has given birth to red, then green and finally brown algae.

The diversity of algal species increases the risk of adulteration. Also, because consumers demand it, the transparency, authenticity, and traceability of the plant raw materials used are key issues for cosmetic brands and ingredient suppliers. DNA Gensee has developed two molecular biology methods, “barcoding” and “metabarcoding”. They respectively authenticate plant and algal species in raw materials and products. Both methods are based on the search for genetic signatures. Further information on these methods is available HERE.

In this project, DNA Gensee worked in partnership with Codif Technologie Naturelle. We have identified two specific molecular markers (specific genomic regions) to differentiate algae. These have been used for the algae species Palmaria palmata, described below.

Palmaria palmata

This red seaweed is used in cosmetics (it is found in many skin care products such as facial cleansers, moisturizers, bath salts, shampoos, massage oils, soaps, etc.), food and nutraceuticals (this seaweed is rich in potassium, iron, iodine, and vitamins B6 and B12).

First, we worked on a raw material sample using the Barcoding method. The result of the analysis allowed us to authenticate the sample as belonging to the species Palmaria palmata.

In a second step, Codif Technologie Naturelle developed a dry extract from this alga. The metabarcoding analysis of this sample allowed us to reach two conclusions as shown in Figure 2 below:

  • The sample contains 100% Palmaria palmata and shows no trace of algal contamination.

  • The sequence obtained on this sample is strictly identical to the sequence obtained on the raw material in the first part of the analysis. This demonstrates the traceability between the raw material and the extract.

Authenticity traceability alga

Figure 2: Analysis results of the raw material and the corresponding extract

This study made it possible to illustrate authentication and genetic traceability, which is essential for securing raw materials and detecting possible frauds or adulterations.

The use of these genetic technologies will foster a virtuous circle between the ingredient supplier, the manufacturer of finished products and the end customer.