CRN president and CEO Steve Mister spoke with NutraIngredients-USA about how the database effort, which began in April of last year, is progressing. Mister said the organization had put into place a requirement on the part of its members to begin entering the label information from their products by January of this year at the latest. He said CRN believes it has achieved full compliance with that requirement.
Full cooperation with ‘substantial compliance’
“What we were looking for was ‘substantial compliance,’” Mister said. “We told members you had to have at least some but not necessarily all of the labels in by that deadline.”
Mister noted that many CRN members are exempt just by the nature of their businesses. Suppliers and service providers that have no finished products of their own fall outside the scope of the effort. Mister said one company, which he declined to name, decided to leave the organization rather than comply.
And for those companies that do have finished products, some have a few while others have hundreds or even into the thousands, Mister said. So some companies might have most of their products entered while others are still in the beginning phases.
Another complication is the impending changes mandated by FDA in both Nutrition Facts and Supplement Facts labeling requirements. Mister said some companies have chosen not to go through the effort to enter the information for products whose labels are scheduled to be updated shortly.
“For some others, they might say, ‘I don’t plan to change the label on that product until 2019, so we can go ahead and enter that one,’” he said.
Putting a size on the market
Mister said that the Supplement OWL has now made a significant dent in getting information on what products are in the market and what’s inside the bottles. But there is still a long way to go.
“We have more than 10,000 products in the database,” he said. “But depending on who you listen to, there may be as many as 60,000 products in the marketplace. Nobody really knows, and that is one of the questions we are trying to answer.”
Non CRN members buying in, too
CRN has done demonstrations of the label database for FDA personnel and has received positive feedback, Mister said. He added that the number of labels in the database from non CRN members is proof the Supplement OWL has been greeted positively by the industry at large.
CRN now has 6,185 entries from member companies and 3,853 from non members. The organization has also received support for the effort from the American Botanical Council (ABC), The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), the Natural Products Association (NPA) and NSF International.
Changes for year two
With Tier 1 of the effort—the entering of raw data from labels—now in full swing, Mister said it’s time to look forward to Tier 2. In this part of the effort, which will cost companies $25 per label (Tier 1 is free), the brand holder can upload ancillary information to the label entry. This information, the access to which can be controlled by the brand holder, could include things like detailed reports from various certifications to help companies better communicate with their customers, Mister said.
Another thing coming in year two of the effort is to put some quality control around the data, Mister said. CRN is working with its vendor to find a cost effective way to comb through the list to find which entries might be missing information. There are 18 fields that must be filled in when companies enter the label information, and some errors of omission have almost certainly occurred in the 10,000 entries, he said.