In 2015, the natural products industry should be proud of the success of its grassroots victories across the country. Legislation and regulations from all levels of government have an impact on the ability of NPA members to do business as well as to provide their products to the millions of consumers who use them safely each and every day.
We are constantly on the lookout for potential threats and opportunities to play both offense and defense, and we have millions of consumer advocates and Congressional allies ready at a moments notice. If there’s one thing that we learned in 2015, however, it’s that we cannot discount the importance of having a vigilant operation at the state level.
This industry has a long and successful history of affecting change at the grassroots level when threats arise. This was on full display earlier this year when New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman employed questionable science and technology to issue cease and desist letters to supplement retailers selling herbal products. What began on February 4th with those four letters eventually spread like a cancer into other states, with State Attorneys General from across the country piling onto the issue.
This was a situation that could have easily snowballed out of control, but the industry was able organize behind calls for more transparency from the AG’s office. NPA authored a white paper “DNA Barcoding for Botanical Authentication” which publicly called into the question the science behind the AG’s actions and asked for the full study to be released. We made clear that our industry serves hundreds of millions of Americans safely each day, and industry stakeholders and consumers made it clear that they would not sit by and allow the attorney general to call on the removal of products without showing real data to support such action.
Each individual and organization who participated in the grassroots campaign made significant contributions in holding public officials accountable; making it known that acting without transparency is simply unacceptable.
Transparency is a vital component to our industry, and the NY AG’s probe into the industry certainly brought it to the forefront. Just as we ask for transparency from Attorneys General, lawmakers, and regulators, our industry has a responsibility to consumers to provide them with as much information as possible. This includes accurate product labeling and truthful claims when those products are marketed. This is important, because consumers have the right to know what is in the products they are taking and to know that those products are safe.
The Natural Products Association (NPA) has gone above and beyond what is required by law to ensure that consumers have the information they need to make informed decisions when purchasing supplements and natural products. This year marked the 25th anniversary of NPA’s TruLabel registration program for dietary supplements. As States Attorneys General across the country continue to brand the dietary supplement industry as unsafe or unregulated, NPA’s TruLabel Program remains a testament to the transparency that exists in one of the nation’s fastest growing segments of the economy. TruLabel has proven over the years to be a real asset to NPA and its members in being ahead of its time in demonstrating the transparency of the industry and the organization.
Since it’s inception, NPA has registered over 40,700 unique SKU products with NPA Tru Label. NPA will be making the TruLabel registration database available to the industry for voluntary registration and the general public. In order to make it easier for members to voluntarily register their products, NPA is providing an online portal database in early 2016.
NPA is also working with UL, a leading global independent safety science company to offer both online and in-person education for NPA members as well as third-party audited, Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) certification. The education partnership, which launched earlier this year, incorporates NPA’s prestigious regulatory and compliance seminars, web-based education and personalized, on-site training, along with top-notch training modules from EduNeering, and the online regulatory training division of UL. All of these initiatives are designed to better inform dietary supplement manufacturers, distributors, auditors, retailers and other industry stakeholders on a variety of vital issues via various training platforms.
NPA is entering into its 17th year of providing GMP education and certification. NPA’s partnership with a venerable organization like UL to provide GMP certification for any domestic or foreign dietary supplement manufacturer or own label distributor is critical to ensuring supplements have been tested for identity, quality, strength, purity, composition, and contamination.
Through our partnership with UL, we are able to educate those who inspect the facilities of dietary supplement manufacturers so we can demonstrate transparency in how auditors are qualified and provide consistency in the certifying process to elevate the standard for the entire industry. Ultimately, it is not only our members who benefit from this program, but also the consumers who use our members’ products. With the added confidence of the UL GMP seal augmenting the NPA GMP and TruLabel marks on products, consumers can rest assured that the products have gone through a rigorous inspection process and that they are safe and reliable.
The Natural Products Association, and the industry as a whole, will continue its commitment to providing quality products to consumers. We also remain confident that we can successfully defend the industry against overzealous Attorneys General and attacks from all directions with an industry that is able to stand up and defend its products. We certainly had a busy year in 2015, and can expect to have yet another one as we move into 2016.