Here’s What All Those Vitamin Certifications Really Mean
More than half of all Americans (about 150 million individuals) regularly take a vitamin or supplement. From a consumer standpoint, there are so many varieties on the market, it can be overwhelming to choose the one that works for their body. In order to make choices easier and safer for consumers, the FDA provides guidance to vitamin and supplement brands. The guidelines are compiled in a set of standards called the Current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs).
To meet the requirements the FDA mandates, vitamin and supplement brands like yours are required to establish your own quality and manufacturing standards. This often leaves your customers uncertain of each brand’s practices. But although the GMP doesn’t regulate products themselves, there are a number of accredited organizations who’ll test your product and give you their ‘seal of approval’. These are widely recognized logos already on many health product labels, affirming a level of trust between your brand and shoppers.
Here’s a quick guide to what each third-party certification means, and what it takes to attain them.
United States Pharmacopeial Convention (USP)
The ‘USP Verified’ mark on a bottle of vitamins pulls a ton of weight in the health and wellness industry. Known for its frequent product audits – they re-evaluate each product anywhere from 1 to 6 times per year – this seal gives consumers peace of mind when they recognize it on the label.
It’s quite a big investment to have your product USP Verified, including costs between $3000 to $15,000 per product and an audit fee of an additional $15,000.
ConsumerLab.com says its mission is “to identify the best quality health and nutritional products through independent testing.” With brands like Centrum (Pfizer), Atkins meal replacements and CVS brand vitamins and supplements gracing the list of ConsumerLab-approved products, this certification is often cited in media as being ‘approved by industry experts’.
You can get your product initially tested by this lab for $3,000 to $5,000. The annual review process for already approved listed products includes a once-a-year audit from products bought in a retail store.
“Recognized by regulatory agencies at the local, state, federal and international level, NSF certification demonstrates that a product complies with all standard requirements,” states their website. Founded in 1944, this certification has their roots dug deep into the health and wellness industry, and is often sought by vitamin and supplement brands who want to be carried in major retailers.
The review process with the NSF costs up to $5,000, plus an annual audit fee of $13,000 – the products of which they get from retailers across the country.
The NSF also deals within many other industries including personal care and beauty, home appliances, and water safety.
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA Organic)
This seal denotes that a product was produced without the use of genetic engineering, ionizing radiation, or nationally banned substances. It also signifies that the manufacturing process has been reviewed and overseen by a USDA agent.
The USDA Organic seal has become much more popular in recent years as the green movement gains momentum, and as such, is currently under heavy scrutiny in the media. The main concern is that anyone can download the USDA Organic seal from their website and use it on their labels without review. However, if a brand was caught claiming the certification without having undergone their review process, they could be fined more than $10,000.