New Hope Network’s standards department reviews the products, labeling and marketing of every Natural Product Expo exhibitor.
Standards specialists identify prohibited products, ensure trademarked certifications are current, make exhibitors aware of non-compliant claims and labeling, and inquire about necessary substantiation. The top 10 most common problems the standards representatives help exhibitors resolve can be found in the packaging and on the labels.
If you have questions about Expo exhibitor standards and prohibited products, certifications, labeling, claims or substantiation, email the standards department.
1. Prohibited products
Prohibited products are typically rejected when a new applicant applies to exhibit at a Natural Products Expo. Returning exhibitors, however, may introduce new products that include prohibited ingredients or are themselves prohibited products. Vapes and foods with artificial colors, artificial sweeteners or artificial flavors are not permitted on the show floor. Nor may they appear in promotional literature present at the show. Current exhibitors may contact Standards for a compliance preview of new products. Previews are required for new cannabinoid products prior to exhibition.
2. Expired certificates for trademarked certifications
The most commonly used trademarked certifications at Natural Products Expos are those for organic, non-GMO and gluten-free products. The Standards Department verifies that products bearing the USDA Organic seal or claiming to be “certified organic” are certified and that the certification is current. It does the same for non-GMO and gluten-free products bearing a trademarked certification symbol. It does not, however, verify the reliability of statements in the absence of trademarked certifications. Exhibitors are encouraged to submit their new certificates to the standards department when their registration with the certifying agency is updated each year.
3. Organic certifier missing on USDA Organic Products
Products labeled as “100% Organic,” “Certified Organic,” “Organic,” “Made with Organic,” or bearing the USDA Organic seal must state the name of the certifying agent on the information panel.
4. Identity statements missing on dietary supplements
The identity statement for dietary supplements must include the word “supplement.” It can be called a dietary supplement, an herbal supplement, or may include the specific dietary ingredient, such as calcium supplement. This is one of the most common labeling errors.
5. Plant parts missing on herbal supplements
Supplement facts panels that don’t identify the part of the plant from which herbal ingredients are extracted are automatically returned to exhibitors for revision.
6. Net quantity of contents missing on foods
Neglecting to include the net quantity of contents on foods in both U.S. customary and metric measure on the principal display panel of a food is a common omission, especially for international exhibitors. In many countries, providing the metric measure is sufficient, but for U.S.-compliant labels, both units of measure are required and must appear in the bottom 30% of the principal display panel.
7. Misusing structure/function claims
Structure/functions claims describe how a nutrient or dietary ingredient affects the normal structure or function of the human body: Calcium builds strong bones, for example. Structure/function claims for conventional foods must focus on the effects derived from nutritive value. Structure/function claims for dietary supplements may focus on both nutritive and non-nutritive effects, but they must include a disclaimer that the Food and Drug Administration has not evaluated the claim. Structure/functions claims are not permitted on cosmetic products; claims that go beyond cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness or altering appearance may cause the product to be regulated as a drug.
8. Failing to distinguish disease claims from structure/function claims
While structure/function claims relate to normal function, disease claims address dysfunction and states of health that lead to dysfunction. Statements that refer to specific diseases—“Calcium supplementation improves osteoarthritis”—are always suspect. In addition, statements that refer to identifiable characteristic signs or symptoms of disease, and suggest that using the product might treat or prevent disease—“Amla reduces blood pressure”—are also non-compliant. Disease claims may be implicit or implied, and the context in which they appear affects whether they are considered disease claims.
9. Unsupported nutrient content claims
Nutrient content claims characterize the level of a nutrient in the food (e.g. rich in, excellent source of). The nutrient being characterized should appear in the nutrition facts panel and be present in the required quantity. Claims like “high,” “rich in,” or “excellent source of” must contain 20% or more of the daily value per Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed. Others, such as “good source,” “contains,” or “provides” must contain 10-19% of the daily value per RACC.
10. Unsubstantiated claims
Claims must be truthful, not misleading, and supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence. Human studies on a healthy population, peer review and reliable methodology are important indicators. The study should be related to the specific product claim and the totality of the evidence should support the claim.