Herbalife exec on dietary supplement registry: ‘Everyone agreed we needed more transparency’

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© iStockPhoto / Sveta615
© iStockPhoto / Sveta615

Related tags: Natural products association, Dietary supplement

The soon-to-be-launched Supplement OWL (Online Wellness Library) will offer transparency and build consumer trust in dietary supplements, and it is gaining wider industry support.

“Herbalife has been pushing for a user-friendly database for over 18 months, along with other CRN members and companies like GNC,” ​Bill Frankos, PhD, Herbalife’s Sr VP for global product science, safety and compliance told NutraIngredients-USA. “It was clear to us given all of the negative media, that we needed to provide a place where consumers could go for accurate and up-to-date information about the products.”

While label databases like the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) Dietary Supplement Label Database (DSLD) have existed for a while, the DSLD is not a consumer database, but serves the needs of researchers, explained Dr Frankos. “ODS has never been cooperative with industry to make it a consumer database,”​ he said. “The OWL database is our effort to be more transparent with consumers.”


Herbalife is one of nine companies involved in beta-testing the product registry, developed and administered by UL.

“Beta-testing has been very instructive,” ​said Dr Frankos. “It has identified a few areas that UL needs to focus on, and that’s the whole point of beta-testing. UL has committed to fixing all of those ahead of its unveiling next week at the CRN’s annual meeting.”

The registry operates with two tiers: Tier one is basic product information which will be accessible to anyone and will permit participating manufacturers/marketers to add their products at no charge, or with a nominal fee. The information will include details about the product, including ingredients, brand name, allergen statements, number of servings and more.

Dr Bill Frankos, Herbalife

Tier 1 will also require companies to provide manufacturing and packaging facility contact information accessible only to FDA, and will generate a unique product identifier for each product.

Tier two will involve a fee and allow a company to provide more in-depth information about the products, including, for example, uploading supporting documentation for a sustainability program, third-party cGMP documentation, product specifications. Access to this additional information will be restricted.

“Some information will only be available to FDA and that will be to make FDA’s job easier,” ​explained Dr Frankos. “For example, FDA currently does not know where any supplement is manufactured, so this deeper tier will confidentially provide that information to the Agency.”


CRN has made participation in the database a condition of membership, and there is support from other trade associations.

Dr Dan Fabriant, CEO and executive director of the Natural Products Association, told us that, while NPA is supportive of the initiative, the association does not plan on making it a term of membership.

Frank Lampe, VP, Communications & Industry Relations for the United Natural Products Alliance (UNPA), said: “UNPA has yet to review the CRN database, but we expect to receive a demonstration from CRN shortly. We look favorably on the project and anticipate providing support for it as we learn more details about the mechanism and how it will look and operate.” 

To watch a video with Steve Mister, President and CEO of CRN, discussing the Supplement OWL, please click HERE​.

Beta-testing involved seven CRN members – FoodState; Garden of Life; Glanbia Performance Nutrition; Herbalife; NBTY; Pharmavite – and two non-CRN members – GNC (member of the Natural Products Association) and Herbs, Etc. (member of the American Herbal Products Association). 

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