Speaking with us at the Natural Products Expo West show in Anaheim, Secrist, director of quality assurance/quality control and R&D at NOW Foods, said that some industry organizations are starting to discuss issues such as transparency, supplier certification, and disclosing the identity of third party analytical labs.
“I think people are really starting to see the need [for these discussions], particularly in light of the New York Attorney General. Clearly, the NY AG applied a good tool in the wrong way. We hope these guys are clean, but we all know that there are companies out there that, if they were in this situation, wouldn’t be able to produce the data that shows they did what they were supposed to do. I think that’s kick-started some of the industry organizations to say we need to step up and do a better job of self-policing.”
Transparency is being discussed more in the industry, but it means lots of things to different people, said Secrist.
“For me, it means starting with qualified suppliers, doing an audit of your suppliers. If you’re performing the testing in-house, you should have traceability in terms of the methods you’re using, that the ingredients meet the identity, purity, strength and composition requirements. If you’re using contract labs, I think it means disclosing who those labs are. Where did their methods come from? Are their methods appropriate?
“And then tying that all together in the master manufacturing and batch production records, and making those available to customers. The day may come when all of those things are made available to consumers. I think the logistics of that could be quite difficult and a little overwhelming, but I think an educated consumer may someday require that.”
Transparency and traceability through the supply chain become a challenge with each additional level, and there are brokers who operate in the industry who complicate things. “Brokers are the bane of our industry,” said Secrist. “They’re a dirty little secret. I think there are a lot of companies that want to go direct, and many are overseas, and for one reason or another they go through these brokers, many don’t add any value.
“You have these materials from unscrupulous manufacturers through a broker, who’s just wants to make a buck, making their way to the consumer. I think we need to look as an industry into trying to get rid of these brokers. Whether that means we band together into a coalition or supplier certification program, I think something like that is really needed in our industry.