In the coming years, consumers will have a new tool for determining the quality of dietary supplements—and it will be right on the label. The National Nutritional Foods Association, an industry trade group, is introducing a new quality assurance program that will guarantee the product was manufactured safely from start to finish.
The National Nutritional Foods Association (NNFA) developed the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) Certification Program based on dialogs with natural products manufacturers, suppliers, trade associations, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Launched in July of this year to be fully implemented in three years, the program provides independent, third-party verification that supplement manufacturers maintain safety and quality standards. After meeting the program’s criteria, a company acquires the right to use the NNFA GMP Certification Seal on its products.
“The NNFA GMP Certification Program is one of the most important initiatives in the dietary supplement field today,” says Logan Chamberlain, Ph.D., publisher of Herbs for Health and a member of NNFA’s education committee. “The public must have a simple and sure way to identify products that have been manufactured to specified quality standards.”
Citizens For Health, a consumer advocacy organization for natural health issues, also supports the program.
“NNFA’s GMP Certification Program is an important step toward increasing the public’s confidence,” says Susan Haeger, Citizens For Health president. “The general public places a lot of trust in the quality and safety of the natural products they purchase every day. It’s essential to ensure that their trust is not misplaced.”
In 1994, Citizens For Health was instrumental in the natural health community’s fight to secure the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, legislation that granted the industry the right to include health-relevant information on product labels. The congressional ruling also required the publication of good manufacturing practices specific to dietary supplements, but the FDA has not yet published these standards.
“[In 1995,] the members decided that GMPs were necessary since the FDA was not aggressively pursuing them,” says Jill Ellis, Ph.D, director of science and quality assurance at NNFA, which represents about 3,000 retailers and 1,000 manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors of health foods and natural products.
To accommodate the widely varying processes in the natural products industry, companies are given the flexibility to meet the performance standards in a number of ways, Ellis says. All NNFA members will have to comply to retain their membership. However, outside of helping train the independent inspectors, most of whom are retired from the FDA, NNFA has no say in whether a company complies, Ellis says.
“Citizens’ watch” is an educational supplement written and compiled by Citizens For Health and the Herbs for Health staff.