NSF claims that with a growing interest amongst consumers for completely natural beverage alternatives, its Quality Certification Program can now allow functional beverage makers to play up natural sourcing on their labels. Amidst growing health concerns over non-carbonated beverages, drink manufacturers are increasingly moving to develop natural or functional beverages products. Nancy Culotta, vice president of the beverage certification program claims that in this market, the testing can help ensure that consumers can trust all natural claims made on labels. "When consumers see the NSF Certification Mark on a bottle's label, they can be confident that it meets the industry's highest standards," she said. The current system has been used to audit about 800 mineral water products around the world over the last year, amounting to 200 bottlers in 60 different countries, the group says. According to NSF, the new certification and testing could now be performed to either official US or EU standards depending on the market place to ensure regulatory compliance for naturally-sourced functional and flavoured drinks. The certification can be used on sports and energy drinks, as well as fortified beverages. "Each of these bottlers voluntarily undergo extensive product testing and unannounced, bottling facility audits, which encompass every aspect of the operation from water source to the filling room," the group stated. "NSF performs extensive product testing for over 160 chemicals, inorganic, radiological and microbiological contaminants." Certification process As part of the certification, which is carried out by the NSF itself, samples of water sourced in the product, as well as packaging used, are collected during unannounced random testing. The samples are then analysed to test that they not only comply with any claims put on a product's labels, but also with relevant national and industry legislation. This includes title 21 of the code of federal regulations (CFR) on food and drugs, and International Bottled Water Association standards (IBWA), according to NSF. Under these definitions, water used in the products must be microbiologically wholesome, originating from underground deposits, with only limited treatments allowed and no minerals permitted to be added to the source. Cost In terms of costs for the certification, the group says that there is no specific figure, with the final expense varying on the number and types of products made, along with the number of different manufacturing plants.