Are there NSF labels on your Supplements?
Last week a friend of mine shared that she wouldn’t buy supplements on Amazon anymore. I realized in that conversation that many people don’t know what to look for to determine if a nutraceutical (supplement) or herbal remedy is safe. We make a lot of assumptions and put a lot of trust in familiar labels or store fronts. Unfortunately, you may be one of the many being duped. The index for whether or not to buy a supplement isn’t where it is sold.
Let’s start by explaining what an NSF label is. NSF stands for National Sanitation Foundation. They are an independent testing/certification entity that acts as a third-party tester to ensure that products meets certain industry standards. In the world of supplements, an NSF label is the “gold standard” and means that:
- What is on the label is actually what is in the bottle.
- A toxicology review has been completed to certify the product formulation is safe for consumption.
- The product has been reviewed for contaminants to make sure that there is nothing unsafe and that there are no undeclared ingredients.
- In sports supplements, it is screened for 280 banned substances and other undeclared ingredients such as stimulants, narcotics, diuretics among other things.
Some other things to consider when selecting supplements:
- Is it manufactured in a GMP certified facility? GMP Stands for Good Manufacturing Practices. The FDA doesn’t actually regulate or certify facilities, but they do have stringent guidelines for manufacturing food and drugs. Supplements can fall into a gray area, so you want to be sure that the facility meets the standards set by the FDA. Looking for the cGMP logo is a good indicator of quality. You can learn more about cGNP here: https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/it-really-fda-approved
- Organic isn’t a guarantee of purity. While organic ingredients are important, it doesn’t mean that the ingredients are free of things like toxins and heavy metals. If something is grown in contaminated soil, the plant may uptake the toxins despite being grown “organically”. This is particularly true for herbs that are sourced from other countries. (This is where an NSF certified product can provide assurance!).
- Where are the ingredients sourced? Making sure that the ingredients are sustainably harvested and that the people employed to gather/harvest the herbs are treated ethically is often something that we all say is important, but don’t think much about in the process of buying supplements.
Coming back to how I started this article (with my friend’s comment about Amazon), online retailers are working to eliminate scam products and new supplement products on Amazon are being required to meet certain standards- I have an upcoming blog post where I will share some of my thoughts and frustrations with online retailers and social media as a supplement seller! Even at such places like your local co-op or chain store there will be supplements that haven’t been certified or even tested for impurities. It is up to you, as a consumer, to take care of yourself. Looking for the NSF label is a start! (and YES! The vast majority of our vegan supplements are NSF certified and produced in the USA! – ArogyaPureSelf.com)
Here is a great summary from a PBS News Hour in 2020 that provides more insight into the value of labeled supplements: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/analysis-some-natural-supplements-can-be-dangerously-contaminated
Now that said, certifications are also very expensive and small producers may not be able to pay for certifications even though they are meeting and documenting standards. In this case, you may consider emailing your supplement company and just asking. (For example, in our upcoming pet line, we have used all organic ingredients and follow the organic certification standards, but are having to wait until our next production run to afford the actual certification labels – they aren’t free).
You can read more about the NSF label here: https://www.nsf.org/consumer-resources/articles/supplement-vitamin-certification