Manufacturer of Natural Products That Empower People to Live Healthier Lives
Nutrition for Optimal Wellness
Raw Materials: How We Source Them & Assure Their Quality

By Michael Lelah, Ph.D., Technical Director, NOW Foods. October 13, 2009

Photos for Quality Article-Raw Materials: How We Source Them & Assure Their Quality
Michael Lelah holding organic fertilizer

We often receive inquiries on our raw materials from consumers. Consumers want assurances that the natural products they consume are pure and safe, especially in light of recent problems with food safety, both in the United States and globally. For example, many consumers are aware of the recent issue of adulteration of milk protein with melamine by certain manufacturers looking to squeeze every cent they can out of their milk protein raw materials. Naturally, these consumers are looking for assurances that they’re not the recipients of this “economic adulteration”, and rightfully so. These days it’s tougher than ever to know which manufacturers are ethical and have the consumer’s best interests at heart, and which are only looking at the bottom line.

At NOW Foods, we’re acutely aware of food quality and supply chain issues. As an ethical manufacturer, it’s our responsibility to safeguard the quality and safety of the products that we manufacture and sell, the products that both you and we consume. We take product safety very seriously, and in this article I’d like to give you an overview of the processes and procedures we use to ensure product safety. You deserve to have a certain comfort level with regard to the safety and purity of NOW products.

Let’s start with our ingredient/raw material supply. While we prefer to source our raw materials from local vendors, this isn’t always possible, so we do source some materials from all over the world. Most major countries are growers and/or producers of natural products, some of which are traditional products that have been produced for centuries. Examples include Lavender from Europe, Ginseng and Ginkgo from China, Ayurvedic herbs and spices from India, Flax from North America, Cod Liver Oil from Norway, Acai from Brazil, Maca from Peru, Liver from Argentina, Whey Protein from New Zealand and the U.S., Red Mineral Algae from Ireland, Mangosteen from Thailand, Pycnogenol from France, Lycopene from Israel, Hoodia from South Africa, Echinacea and Saw Palmetto from the U.S., and CoQ10 from Japan.  

Photo for Quality Article-Raw Materials How We Source Them and Assure Their Quality
Inspection of organic Spirulina ponds

Other raw materials are not native to certain countries, but over time these countries have become the primary source of these ingredients. A prime example is Stevia and USP vitamins from China. In fact, many of the ingredients that we source from China are produced under the strictest pharmaceutical standards and meet the highest purity standards required to be pharmaceutical grade. Keep in mind that no country produces raw materials or ingredients that are of uniformly good or bad quality.

We source ingredients from any country that provides a value source, that is to say, a high quality ingredient at a fair price. Our experience is that it’s not the country that counts, but rather the diligence in auditing and testing. This is what determines good quality, and ultimately leads to assurances of safety and purity. NOW Foods utilizes an extensive audit program. We obtain information on the quality of the production source from both the manufacturers themselves and third party auditors as well. In addition, for key products in our line, we personally audit the farms and/or production facilities to ensure the thoroughness of their quality control measures.

I’m an experienced auditor, and in the last few years I’ve personally audited facilities producing CoQ10, Spirulina, Psyllium, Stevia, amino acids, fish oils, spices, herbal extracts, and many other raw materials. After audits, I write detailed reports that are included in the quality files we maintain in-house.

 

Photos for Quality Article-Raw Materials: How We Source Them & Assure Their Quality
Looking through the microscope at organic Spirulina algae

Our diligence doesn’t stop here. One of the most important and expensive procedures NOW performs is in-house raw material and finished product testing in our state-of-the-art testing facilities in Bloomingdale, Illinois. We employ analytical, physical, sensory, and microbiological laboratories staffed by degreed technicians and Ph.D. scientists. We test our ingredients for identity, potency, purity, contamination, and adulteration. We have the capability to test for pathogens such as E. coli and salmonella; we have the capability to test for heavy metals such as lead and mercury; we have the capability to test for the potency of extracts and the purity of vitamins. All of our ingredients are subjected to testing. We’re aware of ingredients with a history of adulteration and/or contamination, and we put extra effort into testing these ingredients. This rigorous approach to testing is the cornerstone of our quality plan, and our quality commitment to you.

Another extremely important aspect of our quality assurance program is our adherence to GMP’s (Good Manufacturing Practices). We follow the new federal FDA dietary supplement GMP’s (cGMP’s), current food GMP’s, and we are a certified GMP manufacturer by the Natural Products Association (NPA). We’re also certified Halal, and we’re certified as an organic manufacturer by Quality Assurance International (QAI), which also certifies every organic product that we produce. In Canada we’re site licensed by the Canadian Health Products Directorate (NHPD). We have a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) program in place, which is designed to identify potential hazards in our production procedures and put in place barriers to prevent contamination. We have a food safety plan in place that is designed to meet the FDA’s bioterrorism requirements, and we have an allergen program designed to reduce the potential for cross-contamination, including gluten contamination. We have a dedicated team of Quality Assurance and Quality Control specialists who monitor that we establish, follow and document all GMP’s. In this way, we erect significant barriers to contamination and adulteration at our own production facilities.

Photos for Quality Article-Raw Materials: How We Source Them & Assure Their Quality
Michael Lelah planting a tree to enhance water catchmentat an organic psyllium farm

Sourcing of our raw materials is more dependent on where quality materials are grown and produced, not public perception. Above and beyond this however, the quality and safety of our ingredients are more so dependent on our rigorous and robust auditing, testing, and manufacturing programs than anything else. In today’s unsure world, the safety of the food you ingest is largely dependent on the manufacturer. As an ethical manufacturer, we promise to do whatever’s necessary to ensure the safety of our products.

Please feel free to contact our Nutrition hotline at 888-669-3663 ext. 5 or at productinfo@nowfoods.com for more information on the processes and procedures we employ to guarantee the quality of our products.