Natural Foods Merchandiser

New Certification on the Way for Athletes, Consumers

Consumers looking for more and better assurances that their supplements are what they say they are will soon have a new option, courtesy of the National Football League.

The NFL and NFL Players Association are teaming up with NSF International, the Ann Arbor, Mich., certification agency, to create a football player friendly certification to ensure that athletes won?t unknowingly ingest banned substances when they eat snack bars or take multivitamins, pre-workout and post-workout recovery supplements, or joint-support formulas. These categories are the first to be tested under the new certification.

Mark Verstegen, performance consultant for the NFLPA and founder and president of Athlete?s Performance, a chain of training centers in Tempe, Ariz., and Los Angeles, said the program is designed to create a safe haven for players. ?There?s a zero tolerance policy, so there were several players last year that had mandatory four-game suspensions,? he said. ?Yes, [the industry] is regulated, but to what level? And that?s what we?re trying to do, set a policy and criteria that will elevate the bar for nutritional or supplementation companies to step up to.?

The certification process begins when a company applies to the NFL and NFLPA to be certified. Once vetted, the company?s application gets passed along to NSF, which follows two routes: a facility good manufacturing practices audit and a toxicology review of the formulation. The manufacturer may not process any NFL-banned substances for any of its products, even in products not under review. The product is released for sale only after lot-by-lot testing is finished. Certified products will have a label that includes the NSF seal. Once the products are on the shelf, NSF will conduct random sampling. Kathleen Pompliano, general manager of NSF?s dietary supplements program, believes the certification can serve as a model for other sports organizations that want to protect their players. ?We retain samples from every lot of product, so we will have product from that lot if some player makes a claim. It?s very, very tight. There?s a lot at stake, and if this moves to other sports organizations, the stakes could even be higher.?

The new certification label does not mean that the NFL or NFLPA is endorsing supplements, said Stacy Robinson, director of player development for the NFLPA. ?When you see the logo that?s on there, it?s not identifiable [as NFL], and purposely so. We wanted to be [on the logo], but we wanted to kind of distance ourselves too because we?re not endorsing or promoting supplements?but we realize that guys are going to use them.?

One consequence of the new testing is interest from college and high school groups. The NFL, NFLPA and NSF say they have also received calls from other professional athletic organizations that are interested in copying the new certification.

Golden, Colo.-based EAS has become the first company to begin the certification process.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXV/number 4/p. 10

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