Amazon’s new third-party testing could raise supplement industry standards

By Claudia Adrien

- Last updated on GMT

Amazon, like most brick-and-mortar retailers, should act as a gatekeeper to filter out misleading brands and products, said one stakeholder. @ ljubaphoto Getty Images
Amazon, like most brick-and-mortar retailers, should act as a gatekeeper to filter out misleading brands and products, said one stakeholder. @ ljubaphoto Getty Images

Related tags Amazon Fda

The mega retailer's recently issued third-party testing policy is applauded by diverse stakeholders because it fosters trust among supplement consumers, they say.

In April, the retail giant announced its testing policy to combat product adulteration, requiring organizations to use one of three testing laboratories—NSF International, Eurofins or UL—to certify its products, with testing data and certificate of analysis going directly to Amazon.

In addition, the company would initially target supplement companies focused on sexual enhancement, weight management and sports nutrition/bodybuilding.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has kept a close watch on these three categories for the last 14 years​, and in its latest warning letter to Amazon​, the Agency stated lab analysis showed the presence of sildenafil and tadalafil, active ingredients in Viagra and Cialis, respectively. The ingredients were found in seven male sexual performance supplements purchased on the online platform.

Amazon as gatekeeper

Commenting on Amazon’s testing policy, Scott Dicker, market insights director at wellness-focused data technology company SPINS, indicated that it will only serve to ensure the integrity of products on the market.

“I personally think that Amazon, like most brick-and-mortar retailers, should act as a gatekeeper to filter out misleading brands and products,” he said. “In this sense, Amazon is coming back to the historical norm of retailers, rather than being the outlier.”

Support for Amazon’s testing program comes from the federal level as well.

A spokesperson for the FDA told NutraIngredients-USA that, ​“Although we are not familiar with the specifics of Amazon’s dietary supplement-related policies, in general, we appreciate efforts by industry stakeholders to enhance the level of overall compliance and ensure that dietary supplements meet the applicable legal requirements.”

Robert Marriott, director of regulatory affairs at the American Herbal Products Association, said that the organization has received questions from across the dietary supplement industry regarding how the Amazon policy will function.

“AHPA will work through its existing connections at Amazon to encourage that this policy be more clearly and consistently expressed, and to address the many questions raised by this change,” he said.

Preserving trust

For Arizona-based MacuHealth, a mid-sized supplement company focused on eye health products, the Amazon requirements are ultimately in the best interests of consumers.

“We’ve worked so hard for [consumers'] trust and for the trust of doctors who are recommending our supplements to patients,” said Jim Stringham, PhD, chief scientific officer for the company. “We don’t want to compromise that relationship.”

He noted that MacuHealth is already NSF certified and that he does not think that Amazon’s current and future testing policies to combat adulterants will do much to affect companies like his. During its April 17 webinar on the new policies​, Amazon said, “Products that are certified to NSF/ANSI 173 or NSF 229 meet Amazon’s policy requirements.”

Moreover, Stringham said MacuHealth employs additional testing beyond toxins and other impurities such as the specialized carotenoid analysis of Ireland-based Supplement Certified for products that address macular degeneration. He also noted that companies should test not only for contaminants but for nutritional claims as well, which means utilizing additional lab testing beyond the three organizations Amazon now requires.

“We're looking at effects and claims based on science,” he said, adding that Amazon does not currently test for nutrients in products. “It’s kind of crazy that’s​ not regulated.”

Some stakeholders have expressed concern about the impact on small companies. This will be covered in an article scheduled to publish tomorrow on NutraIngredients-USA.

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