By Nilesh Patel, NOW R&D
For nearly nine years I have worked at NOW Foods developing Product Specifications for all raw ingredients, in-process mixes, and finished ingredients/products. The guide post is NOWs core value Natural is better. meaning ...whenever possible, must be derived from natural (non-synthetic/man-made) and/or recognized food sources such as plants, algae, inorganic minerals, and animals. My position on this is that a product cannot be natural once it undergoes changes in one or more covalent bonds (aka, altering the chemical structure) during manufacturing and/or processing of the original natural ingredient.
At NOW, we also value Knowledge, information & openness so we fully disclose (on labels or on inquiry) information regarding ingredients and methods of processing. With these tools, our customers can take our foods and dietary supplements and use our personal care products with confidence and trust!
Even natural chemicals that we eat or put on our skin can easily find their way into our body, and consumers have every right to know what is in these products - just as they have the right to know what is in the food they eat. It is heartening that our founder, Mr. Elwood Richard -a Chemist by training - adopted this ideology when he started NOW Foods 40 years ago as a means for people to obtain high quality Natural, Organic and Wholesome products.
At NOW Foods, our line of natural products range from Natural/Organic Food and Dietary Supplements to safe Personal Care products, and extends into our non-synthetic preservative and color-free packaging, which in turn support and protect our natural resources.
Health conscious consumers and advocates (for whom we design our products) are aware of problems, such as allergens and reactions to the chemical-based products being brought to the market. Also, many beauty products that are as natural as possible are often both effective and gentle on skin and hair without the harshness of synthetic chemicals.
We do not allow specific artificially/synthetically derived and/or processed ingredients in our supplements. I always inquire and, if there is any question, we test for artificial/synthetic ingredients such as: additives, colorings, coloring agents, flavorings, preservatives, antibiotics, hormones, processing aids, carriers, GMOs, synthetically derived and/or processed contaminants from packaging, and other non-natural ingredients.
Yet another aspect that I check is the possible presence of antibiotics and synthetic hormones. It is common knowledge that prescription drugs are the source of antibiotics in most countries of the world. In the United States, antibiotics can be found in beef cattle, pigs, chickens etc. This is important since some natural products are derived from these animal sources. The same antibiotics can find their way into municipal water systems when the runoff from feedlots contaminates streams and groundwater. Governments are aware of this fact and many have preventive action in place; for example, the European Union has banned routine feeding of antibiotics to animals.
During the routine work of specification development and technical inquiries I have to dig deep into the vendors (suppliers) manufacturing and processing, since many important details are not disclosed on their certificate of analysis (CoA) or specification (technical) sheets. In the USA, the FDA allows many synthetics in our food supply, as regulated by the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). But we at NOW do not accept many artificial ingredients. For example, in the CFR, Title 21, Sec. 74.303, FD&C Red No. 3, a synthetic color - is approved for human food, but NOW products are guaranteed to be absent of this pigment. I inquire and look in depth at the processing methods for the product (ingredients) we purchase, such as non-synthetic (natural) methods. When the choice exists, solvents must be safe & found in nature, and the processing method must not introduce anything that is not naturally derived. To keep our products safe, and when warranted, we do use natural and/or nature-identical preservation, especially for our liquid products, but these are appropriately labeled.
Acceptable methods include cleaning, dehydrating, drying, filtering, cold pressing, grinding, chopping, natural water/alcohol extraction, roasting, heating, steam-sterilization, enzyme treatments, fermentation, hydrolysis, extraction with natural solvents, expeller pressing (oils), steam distillation, supercritical CO2 extraction (SCE), baking, mixing, separating, cutting, evaporating, freezing, saponification (of natural fats for use in soaps), etc.
The scope of my work involves looking (searching!) for natural products and processes. Other considerations, such as unapproved processes, ingredients, safety, allergies, toxicity, animal testing, socially responsible packaging and business practices (fair trade, third world projects, responsible use and ingredient disposal, cooperative work environment), respect for endangered species especially as it pertains to the CITES treaty list, biodegradability/environmental friendliness, environmentally protective methods of production, etc., are not included in this article, but are all considerations in sourcing quality natural materials.
All of these efforts and product development guidelines are followed for our products to be As natural as possible, so that our customers can differentiate and compare our products with products from the companies selling cheap synthetics. In doing so, NOW has increased its credibility and has instilled consumer confidence in our products.
Let me cite our Technical Director from his article, Natural: What This Means to Us At NOW Foods, we take Natural seriously. This is our life, this is our expertise, and this is our business. This is our commitment to you. We hope that you appreciate the efforts we go through every day to making available the most natural, affordable products in the market.
My efforts in developing specifications and label information are for promoting natural, intelligent and safe products for nourishing the body, mind and spirit.