GNC unveils raw materials GMP program it hopes will become blueprint for industry

By Hank Schultz contact

- Last updated on GMT

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GNC has announced a GMP plan for botanicals which it is implementing immediately for its suppliers. The company hopes the plan, announced at an industry meeting on Tuesday, will become a blueprint for the industry.

The announcement by GNC executives including CEO Mike Archbold was part of the at the Raw Materials and Supply Chain Summit hosted by the United Natural Products Alliance. The event is taking place February 23 & 24 in Salt Lake City.

GNC first to settle with Schneiderman

GNC was one of the first four dietary supplement retailers targeted by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman a little more than a year ago. It was the most proactive of the four in reaching out Schneiderman’s office to discuss the faulty DNA testing results and to drive an agreement that saw GNC’s products that were the subject of the investigation go rapidly back on the shelf in New York State. But Archbold said that was no victory, and the bad press and loss of consumer confidence means that the clock is ticking as far as addressing some of the vulnerabilities uncovered by Schneiderman’s actions, however misguided they might have been.

“This is something we need to take on as an industry. We need to create these raw material GMPs. It took 13 years to get the other ones. We need to do these in a year,”​ Archbold said.

Archbold said the new plan is a way for the industry to start playing offense after a year of being on the back foot. Archbold said GNC was able to show Schneiderman’s office that tests on reserved samples from the product lots in question showed that the supplements met label spec, and gave credence to the notion that the way the testing had been done was not fit for purpose. But just harping on how the DNA tests were improperly applied does nothing to restore consumer confidence, he said.

GNC released a draft version of its botanical raw materials guidelines. These include specifications pertaining to cultivated botanicals, wild harvested materials, the harvesting of these plants, and post-harvest processign.  The 58-page document seeks to establish standard operating procedures for every step of the supply chain, from assessing growing sites, to identifying plants in the field down to traceability, documentation and shipping and handling.

The document was based in large part on earlier work done by the American Herbal Products Association in formulating its Good Agricultural Collection Practices (GACP), as well as World Health Organization GACP guidelines. Michael McGuffin, president of AHPA, said that GNC freely acknowledged the provenance of the information in its draft GMP proposal.

herbals
"We need to create these raw material GMPs," Mike Archbold, GNC told attendees at the UNPA event. The company also released a draft version of its botanical raw materials guidelines. Image © iStockPhoto

“When they listed their sources they listed AHPA first. We had a discussion with GNC about whether we ought to just update the old GACPs, but their view was that we as an industry needed to show some action, and presenting it as new was the best way to do that. It’s fine for us to see it repositioned,”​ McGuffin told NutraIngredients-USA.

Guru Ramanathan, chief innovation officer for GNC, who also spoke at the conference, said that AHPA has agreed to help manage the revision process. But he said GNC intends to implement the document at once, even if it is not in final form.

“We shouldn’t wait for the perfect document to be created because then it will never be done. Revisions are inevitable,”​ he said. “As a group we need to adopt the principles now because we can’t wait for the next attack.”

Building momentum around improving quality

Steve Mister, president and CEO of the Council for Responsible Nutrition said CRN was enthusiastic about the GNC proposal.

“We’re’ excited about this. We’re happy to see momentum building around improving quality,” ​Mister said. “I’m looking forward to having a chance to take something like this to our board and have a chance to review it and perhaps bless it.”

Others in the room were less sanguine, however. Some said that GNC had not given stakeholders nearly enough time to review the document and submit questions, and that a month might have been more like the minimum amount of time required, not the week they were given. Some were of the opinion that GNC’s announcement could give some industry observers and critics, AGs from states beyond New York, for example, the false impression that GNC’s fait accompli has been agreed to by the wider industry. 

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