The expanded program grew out of BSCG’s earlier work with sporting bodies including the World Anti Doping Agency, the NFL and Major League Baseball. Oliver Catlin, son of BSCG co-founder Don Catlin, said that had become clear in recent years that the problem goes far beyond the list of substances banned by sporting bodies, however extensive that list might be.
Addressing a need
“We started our company 10 years ago and the focus at that point was on the banned substances so that athletes wouldn’t inadvertently test positive. We realized recently looking at the FDA statistics that a big part of the problem wasn’t being addressed,” Catlin told NutraIngredients-USA.
Catlin said FDA's testing has shown that products may contain harmful compounds falling outside the scope of those banned by the WADA and elite and professional sports leagues including antihistamines, muscle relaxers, pain killers, weight loss drugs, PDE-5 inhibitors like sildenafil, and more dangerous agents. As the FDA warns, "this list only includes a small fraction of the potentially hazardous products with hidden ingredients.” Catlin said BSCG is the only certification provider to focus on this concern.
BSCG's drug testing menu includes 392 compounds, of which 185 are prescription or over-the-counter drugs and 207 are drugs banned in sport. It’s a moving target that requires vigilance to keep on top of, Catlin said.
“We are always doing method development,” Catlin said. “Take the case of phenethylamines. There are 177 PEAs that have been characterized. I worry about the ones that are far enough away from the familiar PEAs that they are difficult to detect.”
Mark of quality
Catlin said that BSCG hopes that the new mark will become a symbol of quality in the industry. And further, he said that it is an affirmative stamp of safety. He said he worries that the agreement that GNC signed with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman might come to serve as a model for quality control measures by outside observers of the industry. Putting aside all of the questions about the suitability of DNA testing and the basis premises of the pact, in which Schneiderman admits that GNC did nothing wrong and was complying with all relevant regulations, and you are left with this: This type of testing protocol focused on very low risk products does nothing to protect consumers from the real dangers that might be out there when drugs are lurking in products claiming to be dietary supplements.
“I think the much bigger problem in the supplement industry is the inclusion of drugs that can actually cause harm. These are not things you want to be taking in unknown quantities and without knowing you are taking them,” Catlin said.
Affordable price point
The first sports certifications available for dietary supplements tended to be extremely expensive, which limited their adoption, Catlin said. BSCG on the other hand has worked hard to ensure that they can offer a program that is affordable enough that it can reach deeper into the industry. The program comes with an annual price tag of about $5,000 per product. But even with that low barrier to adoption, Catlin said he was well aware that few if any of the companies creating the problem—those actively adulterating products—would choose to take part.
“It’s not a panacea to adulteration but it is a step in the right direction. The whole industry is looking for that holy grail of how do we really establish quality. We think this new program gives companies a way to distinguish themselves from a quality control standpoint as a reputable company,” he said.