Analytical Testing

N.H.P. Laboratories tests over 800 ingredients employing a very wide spectrum of specialized and often specific methods. Ingredients include herbs, vitamins, minerals, and nutraceuticals, as well as vegetable and fish oils.

To ensure products’ adherence to all relevant Health Canada guidelines as well as labelling requirements, numerous specialists are dedicated to total quality assurance.

The laboratory includes 1 ICP-MS (NexION® 2000 ICP-MS), 4 HPLCs, 4 UHPLCs, 2 GC-FIDs, 2 GC-MSs, 1 headspace, 2 spectrophotometers, 1 ICP-OES, 1 UPLC-MS/MS, 1 HPTLC, 1 NIR, and 1 microscope as well as a DNA extractor/purifier, DNA quantifier and a real time PCR unit. The laboratory, QC, and QA is staffed by 3 PhDs, 7 MScs, and 12 BScs, who devote over 880 hours of testing and research weekly.

Their experience includes:

  • Decades of experience in the biotech sector in the field of chromatography, which includes TLC, HPLC, GC, GC‑MS, LC‑MS/MS, and ICP‑OES;
  • Decades of experience in pharmaceutical and natural health product fields;
  • Extensive backgrounds in quality control laboratories and product assurance, as well as research and development;
  • Strong knowledge in United States, British, and European pharmacopeias, as well as ICH, GLP, and cGMP guidelines.

Their fields of expertise include:

Biotechnology, enzymology, chemistry, biodistribution, sterility, microbiology, and protein chemistry, and extends to many other specializations. glass The team has strong backgrounds in procedural development of laboratory quality-management systems, and are proficient in qualitative and quantitative testing of ingredients and finished products. The Laboratory Director is specialized in method development and validation of natural health products and dietary supplements. The staff’s research has been published in several peer-reviewed journals. The ISO quality-control experts maintain their knowledge at the leading edge by regularly attending seminars and training conferences.

Our products undergo testing for:

    • Identity To identify an ingredient is to ensure that the ingredient matches the species it is claimed to be; for example, this is borage oil seed and no other seed.
    • Potency To confirm the potency of an ingredient is to ensure the ingredient is at the strength it is claimed to be; for example, grape seed will keep, contain, and meet the 95% proanthocyanidins label claim.
    • Oxidation Some products can go rancid with time. Our oxidation testing absolutely ensures our products maintain the highest levels of quality and freshness, as well as the lowest level of peroxide, all the way through to expiration.
    • Disintegration Capsules, softgels, and tablets must dissolve in the stomach; on the other hand, enteric-coated capsules, such as those of Acidophilus Ultra, must only dissolve in the intestines. Our disintegration testing mimics the human digestive system to ensure all products dissolve at the right place and at the right time.
    • Purity To establish the purity of an ingredient is to test for freedom from contaminants. These contaminants include:
    • Heavy metals The Earth is permeated by natural levels of heavy metals. Ground crops are especially susceptible. Our testing guarantees the safety of our products.
    • Over 80 different pesticides, Total PCBs, Solvent residues These chemicals are dangerous and can contaminate ingredients at any stage. We work only through our relationships with trusted suppliers. That said, our testing absolutely ensures our products are free from these contaminants and their dangers.
    • Aflatoxins, mycotoxins, Dioxins, Microbial Contamination Testing only for microbial contamination is not enough. Our testing guarantees our products are free from microbial contamination, as well as any residue these bacteria can produce.

In conclusion

We invest over 880 hours per week testing thousands of ingredient samples prior to inclusion in every Vitazan product. All ingredients are tested for identity, purity, and potency to verify the accuracy and integrity of every certificate of analysis. Our industry-specific scientific team employs advanced analytical equipment to examine the fingerprint of all the constituents of ingredients rather than only specific marker compounds. This permits us to truly determine the specific genus and species of every ingredient, to confirm identity as well as potency for specific compounds that deliver therapeutic benefits, as well as freedom from contaminants. The body of work being compiled within our analytical lab allows us to acknowledge seasonal and geographical variability of natural products, yet is also precise enough to recognize adulterated or spiked ingredients.


We showcase some of our core equipment below:


High-Performance Liquid Chromatograph

The HPLC is a master specialist in determining the identity and quantity of elements and molecules, such as the activity in an herb, the product of an enzymatic reaction, or any molecule which absorbs light or that can be made chromophore (able to absorb/transmit light). The HPLC is very specific in being able to absolutely determine what a substance is and exactly how much of it there is. HPLC works by automatically injecting a small volume of liquid sample into a column packed with particles 120 the thickness of a white sheet of paper. The liquid sample is forced through the column by powerful micropumps. The detector sends a digital signal to the computer, where specialized software is used to identify and determine the quantity of the separated components. We use it routinely to analyse the composition of compounds present in complex mixtures, such as water- and fat-soluble vitamins. We also use the HPLC to analyse a large variety of ingredient, for example astragalus, dandelion, and red clover. This is a typical liquid chromatogram of water-soluble vitamins; these are called chromatographic peaks, and each one represents a separated compound.  


Ultra High-Performance Liquid Chromatography

We’ve added 4 UHPLCs to our laboratory. These extend our extensive testing capability.

PCR Cycler: DNA GMO Identification

Our laboratory has also added DNA extraction and analysis capability. With this capability we can identify if an ingredient contains any GMO DNA or proteins.


UPLC/MS (LC/MS-Triple quad)

Ultra Performance Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometer – Dual detector

If the HPLC is the master specialist in identifying and quantifying, then the LC-MS/MS is the all-star. It is able to do everything the HPLC can do, only better and more precisely. It does this by using a very high-pressure micropump—15,000 psi—,combined with dual detector / photodiode array (PDA) and a more powerful mass spectrometer detector. It is used in cases where extreme sensitivity is needed. Currently, this is the most advanced and widest-application tool for analysis. It allows for the most precise measurements—in parts per trillion rather than billion or million… The LC-MS/MS is able to effectively analyse herbs and medicinal components. The LC/MS combines the advanced separation capabilities of an HPLC with the powerful analytical abilities of a mass spectrometer. A sample is injected into the UPLC system and separated into its various components. These components enter the MS through an “electro spray interface,” where very rapid ionization takes place. At this point, the mass spectra of the components can be used to pinpoint-analyse the sample. The main advantage of this system is that it generates fast, accurate, and extremely precise measurements by creating an electronic signature of a compound. We test many nutraceuticals with this instrument, such as glycosides in black cohosh, thujone in worm wood, and residual antibiotics in royal jelly.


Gas Chromatography–Flame Ionization Detector/Mass Spectrometrer

The GC is used to analyse volatile molecules with a high melting point, such as fatty acids in fish oil. In addition, samples submitted to the GC do not need solvents or a “liquid mobile phase”; instead, samples are carried by an inert gas through the system. Hence, if we are testing for solvents, the instrument of choice is the GC-FID/MS; no steps are needed to factor out any solvents used to prepare the sample. GC-MS is precisely able to identify and determine the quantity of the molecules of interest, whereas GC-FID is only used to determine the quantity of molecules. Like LC-MS/MS, GC-MS is also able to create an electronic signature of a molecule. The complexity of running the test will dictate which instrument will be used. In a GC system, the vaporized sample is moved with a carrier gas through a specially coated capillary column. The column separates the components before entry into the detector; in our case, either the FID or MS, depending on the application. We also use the GC-FID system to determine the quantity of common fatty acids and essential oils present in oils such as tamanu, argan, and fish oil. This is a typical fatty acids chromatogram of an argan oil sample. PCBs and pesticides are tested for through the GC-MS. As the samples pass through the ionization chamber, they are bombarded with a very high voltage of electricity that results in complete fragmentation (separation) of the individual compounds. The fragments are reconstructed as they move through a vacuum tube as per their mass-to-charge ratio. The given signal is recorded by the computer for analysis. The compounds are compared with a well-known library from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) or a certified reference standard material. The total ion chromatogram below represents a pesticides mixture. Samples being tested for solvents pass through our headspace GC-FID. The FID incinerates the sample, giving an electrical signal for analysis. We use this setup to detect if there are solvents, such as 1,2-dichloroethane and 1,1,1-trichloroethane—which are known human carcinogens. These contaminants can be present in low-quality herbal extracts, and we have zero tolerance for them. The chromatogram below represents residual solvent.  


Inductively Coupled Plasma–Optical Emission Spectroscopy

ICP specializes in analysing metals and minerals. With this device, we can effectively and precisely determine the identity and quantity of any metal present in a sample, be it iron, magnesium, lead, mercury, or boron. The process to test for these metals is much more straightforward than it would be on the HPLC or LC/MS. With an ICP-OES, a sample flows into a plasma torch, where it is incinerated into atomized particles. Electrons of the atomized sample go through different levels of energy and by doing so, the atoms emit light; that light is analysed for meaningful information. We use it to detect contamination by low-level trace metals—including mercury, arsenic, lead, and cadmium. These contaminants permeate the Earth’s crust and can be especially present in foodstuff grown in the ground or any items originating from the earth. Essentially, the only remnants of an atomized sample will be any residual metals, which we are then able to detect. This makes methods developed to test metals easier to run for on the ICP. Here is an ICP screenshot of the spectral view of cadmium.

2 Spectrophotometers

The spectrophotometer is a cost-effective tool that can be used to determine the quantity of samples which absorb or transmit light. Based on absorption or transmittance of light, a correlation can be made to determine the quantity of a substance. The identity of the sample will be determined through other instruments. A spectrophotometer is a device used to measure light intensity. NASA typically includes a spectrophotometer on their interplanetary landers such as the Spirit and Opportunity rovers. A small beam of light passes through the sample; some of the light is absorbed, but what passes through is detected and measured by the spectrophotometer. We are able to use this information to determine the quantity of a substance. Our spectrophotometer is used to determine some enzymatic activities, such as papain and bromelain, or anthocyanidin content in bilberry. Here is a screen shot of a spectrophotometer graph of a papain sample.


High-Precision Thin-Layer Chromatograph

The HPTLC is an effective tool to verify the fingerprint of identity of ingredients against a reference plate. We are able to confirm the profile of a plant thanks to this tool, and to ensure the right ingredient is being used. With an HPTLC, individual components of a mixture are separated on a thin glass-coated plate, which is then placed in a developing chamber. The TLC plate is placed under an ultraviolet lamp, and bands of the different components are visualized. Unlike a standard TLC, with an HPTLC many tasks are automated via robotics, eliminating uncertainty from samples being applied to plates by hand. We use the HPTLC to detect if products have been contaminated by mycotoxins, a dangerous class of toxins that can develop on plant matter in humid conditions. You can see an HPTLC plate below.


Near-Infrared Spectroscopy

NIR can be used to test a wide variety of substances; herbs and isolates such as amino acids. NIR can test almost anything, so long as we have a sample known to be that substance. With this device, we can guarantee the freshness of the plants we use in your product. NIR works by comparing the fingerprint of a substance with an average of fingerprints of samples known to be that substance. Those fingerprints form a 3D reference model of what is acceptable. This is important, as even grown under similar conditions, the same plant will not grow in an identical fashion. NIR allows us to identify herbal products’ total quality. We ensure that only those samples that meet our strict criteria for freshness and quality are able to pass. We only include the highest-quality herbals in the reference models we create for the NIR. The NIR gives a reliable identification of a sample by comparing its spectra to the spectra of a sample of known characteristics. NIR analyses the transmissive properties of specific wavelengths of light in the sample being measured. Here is a representation of spectral information into a three-dimensional image.  


The venerable microscope is still a staple in any laboratory. Of course, we use a modern light microscope; this style of microscope utilizes a focused beam of light that is converged by the condenser lens onto a specific point on the specimen. We use it to examine the broken cell status of Chlorella samples. Here is an example of a broken cell wall in a Chlorella sample; broken cell walls make for easier digestion and absorbability.

NexION® 2000 ICP-MS

The NexION 2000 Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer (ICP-MS) is very versatile. It features an array of unique technologies that combine to deliver the highest performance no matter the analytical challenge. Its versatility makes it easy to handle any sample matrix and address any interferences; It accurately measures sub-ppt levels of critical trace elements such as Na, K, Ca, and Fe. It is coupled with a prepFAST MC™ which is a fully automated, low pressure chromatography system that isolates elements of interest from the sample matrix and collects multiple discrete eluent fractions for precise isotopic analysis. This allows for example the separation of organic arsenic from inorganic arsenic.