By Upasana R. Abbott, R&D Scientist, NOW Foods
Dietary supplements have gained the interest of health professionals and consumers alike in maintaining good health. Ingredients such as polyphenolic compounds (plant antioxidants), Coenzyme Q10 and many others have been exploited for their potential role in preventing structural and functional problems and improving the quality of life. With this increasing awareness, consumers deserve and demand that products meet suitable standards for safety and quality1. This article will explain a variety of activities we do to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the NOW product line while preventing adulteration and misbranding of individual products.
The first step is ensuring that the dietary supplement contains what is claimed on the label. We establish specifications for every dietary ingredient and dietary supplement produced by NOW Health Group. The specification enlists specific details of each ingredient: a designated product code, a science-based label claim and the amount used in the supplement. It also includes the list of laboratory assays to be done on that supplement along with approved test methods and expected values for each assay. The expected values are based on a combination of factors, including data from the raw material suppliers, the development of our formulations and testing that is done both in-house and at independent labs. The material from different suppliers is reviewed to assure they do not contain any hidden ingredients and are accurately labeled for food allergens and for special claims such as Vegetarian/Vegan and Organic.
NOW complies with Good Manufacturing Practices. Professional sanitizing and maintenance procedures are followed for the production plant and for utensils and equipment used in processing, holding, conveying or measuring ingredients or final products. The ingredient and processing information for each batch produced is recorded in detail with appropriate signatures and can be easily retrieved when needed. NOW employs well-trained and diligent personnel that follow detailed hygienic practices to produce quality products. The employees are frequently trained on updated requirements. These measures are taken so that our products are manufactured in a safe manner. NOW organizes frequent open house meetings and plant tours where customers can actually visit the plant and gain more confidence in the quality processes used to make our products.
NOW has a well established quality control (QC) division that performs a range of compliance functions. This group reviews all processes, documentation and production records. The QC inspectors collect samples for testing. The lab has three sections for testing: Physical, Analytical and Microbiological. QC performs the required tests in-house and checks it against the established specifications. In this process, the inspector documents the methods actually used at the time of analysis, the reagents and standards used and the approval or rejection process, including the signature of the person performing the test. QC also establishes the reliability of various suppliers by checking their certificates of analysis. Some of the quality concerns addressed are Tablet size variation, Color variation, Disintegration time, Underfilled container, Improper packaging, Mislabeling, Wrong ingredient, Foul odor, Off taste, Superpotent, Subpotent and contaminants.
Finally, a sample of each manufacturing lot of the supplement is retained for at least two years from the date of manufacture. These samples are used as reference and may be used in the event of any investigation. NOW takes customer complaints seriously, investigating for any possible failure of the product, no matter how unlikely. The consumer complaints are recorded with the necessary details and reported to Quality Control for further action.
With all these processes in place, NOW proves that it is working hard towards building greater customer confidence by implementing GMP practices. This is how NOW lives up to its valuable mission “To provide value in products and services that empower people to live healthier lives”.
Cowley, R. and Fitzgerald, L.H. The impact of cGMP compliance on consumer confidence in dietary supplement products. Toxicology 221 (2006) 9-16.