Speaking with NutraIngredients-USA during Expo West 2019, Dr Jeffrey Bland explained how NPQAA came about, how it helped win Congressional support for DSHEA, and why there was a missed opportunity for NPQAA after the bill become law.
In response to increasingly aggressive approaches to dietary supplements in the early 1990s, a meeting was convened during an NNFA (National Nutritional Foods Association – now the Natural Products Association) conference in Kentucky that led to Dr Bland floating the idea of the industry putting together a task force to write a standards document, internal to the industry, about quality across all categories, to get out ahead on the issue.
“[During that meeting] Loren Israelsen [now president of the United Natural Products Alliance] stood up and said, ‘We need to be putting something into this committee that’s discussing the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, but it seems it’s lacking this internal assurity of quality’. Much to my surprise, a variety of CEOs of the companies said they would support this, and give time and energy to it,” recalled Dr Bland.
“We worked over the course of about six months to put together a quality assurance document, and we called ourselves the Natural Products Quality Assurance Alliance - NPQAA.”
“It was pretty enlightened for the age and time”
A standard of identity was set up in each of these categories (supplements, herbs, foods, oils, etc) for how to test, how to validate, and so on. “It was obviously a first approach, but I think it was ambitious. It was pretty enlightened for the age and time,” said Dr Bland.
“That document eventually was published and was taken by Loren Israelsen, given to Orrin Hatch, who then read it into the congressional record. It became the first internal document of the industry that it could police itself.”
“DSHEA was finally passed in this magic moment where Ted Kennedy crossed over and we’re told in part he crossed over because of this document showing that there were standards going to be used in the industry.”
Upon passage of DSHEA, Dr Bland thought that the momentum behind NPQAA would iterate forward and improve the document, and pass up standards, but there was no motivation anymore for people to be involved.
“I was thinking, now here’s a chance for the industry as a whole to step up and say OK, we have these standards, and we have the right now under the law to make structure-function claims, we’ve got these new categories of herbal products that have been moved into our portfolio, we’re really going to step up and be responsible . . . but that’s not what happened. It was ‘how can we push the edges and take advantage?’
“I’m happy to see now, however, in 2019 that the enlightened part of the industry has stepped up, it is moving to a much higher standard, and it’s not just the cGMPs, and seeing the seriousness and what the opportunity is if they really want to be a global agent of change.”