The Natural Products Association, the nation's largest trade association for dietary supplements manufacturers, has launched several new programs designed to ensure the quality of dietary supplements.
In conjunction with U.S. Pharmacopeia, the official public standards-setting authority for all prescription and over-the-counter medicines, the NPA has announced a testing program for Chinese raw materials and ingredients. "It's very timely, given the [good manufacturing practices] regs that just came out, which will require, over a three-year period, that all ingredients be tested for identity," said David Seckman, executive director and CEO of NPA. "Right now, you can't go a day without hearing about imports from China, and one big advantage is that USP, our partner, has a lab in Shanghai and will be doing testing there. Individual companies that have purchased raw materials from China have sometimes found it doesn't meet their standards of quality. Hopefully, this will help alleviate some concerns consumers might have about Chinese imports."
In a related move, NPA announced two programs, the Finished-Product Testing Program and Truth in Advertising Program, to be administered by the Natural Products Foundation, a charitable foundation founded by NPA. (While donations to NPA, which lobbies Congress, are not tax-exempt, donations to the foundation do have tax-exempt status.)
"These issues have been under discussion for quite a while," said Tracy Taylor, senior vice president of public affairs and strategic initiatives of the NPA and executive director of the NPF. "The foundation brought together a lot of industry leaders who laid the groundwork for the initiative."
Under the testing program, 15 popular products, including vitamins and minerals, nutrition bars and sports beverages, will be purchased from retail stores each month and tested by independent labs, with the results peer-reviewed and published on the foundation Web site. Under the advertising program, manufacturers, advertisers, retailers and other members of NPA are asked to commit to a new industry pledge, and the association is also educating members about existing laws and regulations and creating a hotline for reporting of questionable claims.
NPA works with personal care manufacturers as well as companies on the dietary supplements side. In this capacity, the NPA has formed a work group, in conjunction with Burt's Bees, Aubrey, Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps and other natural personal care companies, to define the term 'natural' as it relates to personal care products. "I think there's a real public interest in this issue," said Taylor. 'Natural' doesn't have a legal definition in the same way as 'organic,' but we'd like to create a definition that is consistent throughout the industry, in order to insure the integrity of natural products."