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Your Supplier Can Kill You Caution Industry Veterans Ullman and Cudahy

Good manufacturing practices (GMP) and supply quality were both topics du jour at Natural Products Expo East in Boston last week, as attendees from all ends of the supply chain converged to discuss the ways in which they could better the industry and inspire more consumer confidence. While there seemed to be a shortage of ingredient supply companies exhibiting, it didn’t detract from a robust and timely education program highlighted by a number of Supply Expo-sponsored sessions. Many of these sessions conveyed an underlying sense of urgency surrounding the latest eyebrow-raising media headlines detailing tainted or unsafe nutritional ingredients.

One session that captured this sense of urgency featured Mark Ullman, a partner with New York's Ullman, Shapiro & Ullman law firm, and Sabinsa President and Chief Operating Officer Jim Cudahy. Titled “Your Supplier Can Kill You,” the main take away of this session—aside from the fact that finished goods manufacturers ought to be very afraid of unscrupulous suppliers—was that the due diligence needed to ensure ingredient quality ultimately falls on the finished product manufacturer. Although plenty of quality suppliers and third-party certifiers help make this task easier, nothing should be taken for granted when scrutinizing the suppliers you work with, the presenters warned.

To illustrate his points, Ullman analyzed a number of devastating supplier-generated recalls and talked about the different lessons to be learned from each. In the examples of the melamine debacle of 2007 and the Star Caps recall in 2008, clear evidence of economically motivated adulteration by Chinese and Peruvian suppliers existed, he said. In both cases, there was little or no oversight of the raw material manufacturers, and neither the brokers nor the finished goods manufacturers had visited their facilities—two steps that may have prevented the recalls, Ullman noted.

Cudahy cautioned manufacturers to “keep your friends close and your suppliers closer.” He noted the importance of reviewing a supplier’s systems and facilities—whether it be through a direct audit, a third-party audit, or even a shared audit, where multiple manufacturers split the costs of inspecting a raw material manufacturer. Such audits, Cudahy added, play a vital role in enabling finished goods manufacturers to know what’s happening throughout the supply chain.

The concepts laid out by Cudahy were fairly straight forward and may have seemed like common sense to some of the industry veterans in the room, but the reality is that there are still a number of suppliers not playing by the rules and a number of manufacturers willing to turn a blind eye to quality issues in order to save some money. The two panelists cautioned that trying to save money in the short term can lead to the collapse of a business in the long term, and in some cases lead to jail time for the executives involved. “If the supplier cannot meet your requirements, find another,” Cudahy said. “It’s your life!”

Nutrition Business Journal’s October issue is devoted to the raw material & ingredient supply end of the U.S. Nutrition Industry. In the issue, NBJ investigates the problem of economically motivated adulteration in the dietary supplement ingredient market, in addition to exploring ingredient pricing trends and a number of other topics. To order a copy of the issue, subscribe to NBJ or download a free 32-page sample issue, go to NBJ’s subscription page.

Related NBJ Links:

GMP Q&A with CFSAN’s Brad Williams

11 Tips for Ensuring a Smooth FDA Inspection

CEO Video Interview: Is Sabinsa Seeing Signs of an Economic Recovery?

Related Functional Ingredients Magazine Links:

Quality beyond GMPs

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