Several well-known players dominate the scene: NSF Certified for Sport is perhaps the most comprehensive and highest profile of the supplement certifiers. Informed Choice has had a strong foothold in the European market and the Banned Substances Control Group, one of the early testing pioneers, recently announced an expanded testing suite that looks for drugs beyond the official World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) list.
From drug analysis to product verification
Demand for the services is what’s driving the new developments, according to another of the companies in the sphere, Aegis Sciences, based in Nashville, TN.
“We are trying to offer an alternative, because there is plenty of business to go around,” Bob Murray, PhD, scientific director of Aegis told NutraIngredients-USA.
Aegis, which started out as a straight analytical lab, came to the supplement certification game through its longstanding business of doing drug testing for professional sports leagues. Athletes whose samples were being tested at the lab were seeking ways to avoid accidentally testing positive, Murray said.
“Aegis has been around for about 25 years and had a lot of clients sports drug testing market, all of whom had an interest to make sure their athletes stayed clean by not accidentally ingesting a banned substance,” Murray said.
The company recently announced the formation of a scientific advisory board that will among other things help guide the development of the company’s signature mobile app, which allows users to scan a supplement’s label to find red flags in terms of questionable ingredients, Murray said.
Murray said the company’s certification seal is a cost effective alternative to some others, because it’s based on product batch testing alone, and relies on other sources for facility audit information. Other more comprehensive certification schemes, such as NSF’s Certified for Sport program, audit facilities to be free of banned substances as well as testing product batches.
“It is strictly a product based service. Our preference is to partner with reputable supplement manufacturers. What we want is for them to have a current GMP certification as well has have been inspected by the FDA within the past 12 months,” Murray said.
Well-known brands join forces
In another development, LGC, which offers analytical, forensic and diagnostic services and is the home of the Informed Sport and Informed Choice brands, and UL, a leading global safety science organization, have teamed up to offer an enhanced supply chain verification program for the sports and athletic supplements industry in North America.
LGC has more than 50 years' experience in the science of sports anti-doping. As well as testing sports supplements for substances prohibited in sport by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), LGC conducts doping control analysis for animal sports organizations across the world. It also offers a range of drug and alcohol abuse testing services.
"Quality assurance has become increasingly important for consumers of sports nutrition products, and in particular for athletes that are subjected to anti-doping tests," said Terence O'Rorke, director of business development, Sport and Specialized Analytical Services, LGC.
Analysis for the programs is conducted at LGC's laboratories in Lexington, Kentucky, and in Fordham, United Kingdom. Currently there are approximately 530 products registered on the programs.
"Informed-Sport and Informed-Choice are established marks in the sports nutrition industry and the alliance between UL and LGC will allow supplements companies to further enhance their levels of product testing," O'Rorke added. "The alliance brings together two market leaders, and the combined experience and expertise, along with proven customer service, is an important development for both the sports supplements industry and consumers of their products.”
UL label verification testing and reviews assess product label information as it relates to the requirements for the appropriate Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) references, and identifies gaps and areas for improvement to help ensure compliance with U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) supplement regulations and industry standards.
"Ongoing testing of products for label verification of content provides an essential step in product safety, quality, and performance, helping to ensure products are produced in compliance with applicable regulations and brand specifications," said Michael O'Hara, general manager of Global Nutraceuticals for UL.