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Industry Responds to Press Coverage Of ConsumerLab's Animal Supplement Test

Joint-related products represent the most popular supplements for dogs and horses, and yet a new analysis from found that many of these products may not be providing the benefits they could or, worse yet, may actually be harmful to the four-legged creatures who consume them. At least that’s the story, as reported by the Associated Press, that began showing up in newspapers and on news Websites around the United States on July 9, 2009. Although they haven’t disputed the findings from ConsumerLab’s most recent test of animal joint supplements, some in the industry remain frustrated with how the media, particularly the Associated Press, has reported on this and other supplement-related stories in recent months—and they want to set the record straight.

“The [July 9 Associated Press] article is an example of how the industry has been portrayed very unfairly by selecting specific snippets of conversations which support a preconceived premise that is both incomplete and very misleading given the efforts of the majority of the industry,” Bill Bookout, president of the National Animal Supplement Council, told Nutrition Business Journal.

In ConsumerLab’s test, four of the six joint supplements for animals analyzed by the independent, for-profit testing agency lacked the amounts of glucosamine or chondroitin indicated on their labels or contained lead, most likely due to glucosamine sourcing. ConsumerLab also released the results from its most recent test of human joint supplements, which found that five out of the 21 brands tested did not contain the promised amount of chondroitin or failed other quality measures.

In her July 10 story, the Associated Press’s medical writer Marilynn Marchione quoted Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the American Botanical Council (ABC), as saying that quality problems have been associated with supplements, although many companies do a good job. Blumenthal was also quoted as saying that dogs and cats are unable to give their subjective assessments of a supplement’s efficacy, and that owners want to believe that the supplements they pay for are having beneficial effects on their pets.

“These statements were pulled from an approximately 45-minute phone interview that Marchione conducted with Blumenthal on June 24, and many topics of that conversation and qualifications that Blumenthal provided were not included,” ABC wrote in a July 10 advisory to its members about Marchione’s article. “For instance, Blumenthal discussed several companies that are conducting legitimate research on the benefits of supplements on companion animals (dogs, cats, horses), but these were not mentioned in the article.” Marchione has written other Associated Press articles in recent weeks that have been critical of—and many in the industry say have been biased against—dietary supplements.

In its own test of animal supplements conducted in April, NASC found that 28% of the 87 brands tested did not contain what was claimed on their labels. NASC uses this information to help its members with quality control—which is a top priority for NASC and its members, which represent about 90% of the animal supplement companies operating in the United States today.

Bookout was also quoted in Marchione’s July 9 article, and he said NASC is working on a response now. As Bookout said he explained to Marchione, there are many challenges associated with supplement testing and it is important to understand that “testing is simply a snapshot in time.” This information was not included in the Associated Press article, nor were any details about the programs and initiatives NASC has put in place to help safeguard the quality of animal supplement products.

Unlike human supplements, animal supplements do not fall under the regulatory umbrella of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), and therefore animal supplement companies are not required to adhere to the new Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) rules created for human dietary supplements. To help ensure animal supplement quality and create a system for self regulation within the animal supplement industry, NASC established its own GMP quality standards to which each of its approximately 100 member companies must adhere. The NASC is also focused on certifying raw material providers as quality suppliers to the animal supplement industry as an added effort to ensure quality. “You cannot have a quality outcome without starting with quality ingredients,” Bookout said.

Such efforts are crucial to the future of the animal supplement industry, because, as Todd Henderson, DVM, president and founder of supplement manufacturer Nutramax Laboratories, told NBJ, quality problems can arise on both the animal and human sides of the supplement business—and these can be very problematic for the companies involved and the industry at large. According to Henderson, Nutramax Lab’s Cosequin brand, which was launched in the early 1990s as the first glucosamine/chondroitin combination product line for animals, was included in and passed ConsumerLab’s analysis of animal joint supplements.

Nutramax Labs is not a member of NASC, but Henderson said the company is dedicated to quality and science. In fact, according to Henderson, an inspection by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration showed that Nutramax Lab’s manufacturing facility operates at the level of pharmaceutical GMPs, which go beyond the requirements established for human supplement manufacturers under DSHEA and for animal supplement manufacturers under NASC’s member rules.

This commitment to quality is helping the company maintain double-digit growth for its animal supplement products, even in the current recession, Henderson said. “The economy has affected everyone, but it has affected science-based, quality products less because the consumer realizes that there is value to the quality and safety and effects that they see from these products.”

NBJ’s August issue will be devoted to the U.S. animal nutrition industry and will include features about the current regulatory status of animal supplements and the work of NASC and others to safeguard the quality of the industry’s products. To order a copy of the issue, subscribe to NBJ or download a free 32-page sample issue, go to

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