CRN seeks to engage retailers on quality of in-house labs, reliability of GMP audits

By Hank Schultz contact

- Last updated on GMT

©Getty Images - Jevtic
©Getty Images - Jevtic

Related tags: Quality assurance

The proliferation of certification schemes by major retailers threatens to create a costly and complex path to market for dietary supplements, the Council for Responsible Nutrition warns.

Several large retailers such as CVS and Amazon have instituted certification schemes that CRN says go above and beyond the GMP requirements that dietary supplement manufacturers already must comply with. The requirements will add cost without necessarily better protecting consumers, the group asserts.

Megan Olsen, vice president and associate general counsel for CRN, emphasized that the trade group does not object to the spirit of these programs.

“CRN is not opposed to these programs and fully understands the need to police the supplements aisle,”​ Olsen told NutraIngredients-USA​.

Denigration of in-house lab results

But she said some of the specifics of these programs are problematical.  In particular, the call for third party testing via labs with specific certifications is a cause for concern.  Many of the products in question come from major national brands that have rigorous quality programs that run through their own in-house labs which in many cases have equivalent or even superior capabilities to some third party labs.

Olsen emphasized that she wasn't trying to speak for the retailers, but it does appear that the veracity of in-house lab results is discounted in these schemes.

“Our concern is that this will create a patchwork quilt in which all of these requirements will be slightly different,”​ she said. “We are concerned about the inflexibility of choosing which lab to use and the inability to use in-house labs.”

Olsen said progress is being made on engaging with retailers on broad quality questions. CRN recently led a panel discussion through Retailer Standards Working Group that focused retailer certifications and the obstacles they present the industry. Panelists included executives from the Global Retailers & Manufacturers Alliance (GRMA), Pharmavite, Nature’s Way, and Gemini Pharmaceuticals.

Olsen said a GRMA meeting scheduled for this coming week will focus on similar topics.

Goal: Recognition of import of GMP audits

Olsen said a primary goal of the retailer engagement will be to educate retailers on what information is contained in GMP audits as a way to understand the quality programs of supplement manufacturers.

“There are very robust standards out there that are fully available. There are great standards for these GMP audits that take into account looking at the in-house labs and looking at how companies test their own products,” she said.

It’s quite possible that a third party lab might have inferior qualifications to an in-house lab run by a major manufacturer, Olsen said.  Some certifications, such as specific ISO examples, might be used by labs to demonstrate a high level of competence when in fact they apply to specific processes, not overall lab quality.

“There isn’t necessarily going to be one certification that demonstrates reliability in a lab. Certifications could be used in a way that the retailers may not necessarily fully understand,”​ Olsen said.

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