From time to time we have customers and prospective customers asking us why we have not submitted our products to Consumerlab.com for testing.
As I am sure many of you know, comsumerlab.com is in the news quite regularly with their 'posting' of tests that they have carried out on supplements. Last week a regular customer emailed me about this very subject so I thought that it was time to address this issue in detail.
This is the email which prompted this.
"Lately in our Long Island, New York newspaper Newsday, there have been some articles referring to vitamins and ingredients in supplements. I have been taking your products for quite awhile now and have been satisfied with the results, but I often wonder after all this reading about even good companies not having all the ingredients listed and if we as consumers are getting what we need and pay for. Have you ever thought of sending some of your main products to ConsumerLab.com to have them independently test here in the US to verify what we all believe. Could be a boost to business. There are not as many vitamins as you would think on their good list, and those that are like Centrum, One a Day etc. do not have what your products have."
I will continue:
Howie raises a valid point. There are indeed many products on the market that do not contain what they claim on the label. However, testing by consumerlab is not the answer.
First of all consumerlab.com is not a lab at all. It is first and foremost a 'for profit' operation that is to some extent feeding off consumer fears. They send all products out to other contract labs for testing as they do not have the facilities or the equipment to undertake this.
I did talk to the President Ted Cooperman of consumerlab some years ago when I met him in Washington. He acknowledged that they could not test our products in their entirety because they are so complex.
However, he said that they could test a selected number of ingredients. All we needed to do was to provide a list of those ingredients that we wanted tested and send them product and they would do it.
We did not proceed with this offer for two reasons.
1. If we sent the products it would not be a truly independent test as who can confirm that it was a typical batch. Also, if we selected what ingredients are to be tested that really makes the whole process of little value.
2. Secondly, the amount that they wanted to charge was really quite excessive and much more than an independent GMP certified lab would charge.
Over the years since I have watched the consumerlab operation grow and the progress they have made in the market place has been quite outstanding.
Unfortunately I am not particularly impressed with their business model which seeks to profit 'both ways'. (from both the consumer and industry)
Their method of operation is to select a number of products that they want to test, purchase them, send them away for testing and then publish part of the results. For example, they may say that they tested 12 products and found that 4 of them contained lead.
Then here's the 'rub'. They will name the 12 products but will not publicly state which 4 contained the lead. As a consumer the only way to find out which ones were contaminated is to buy a subscription to their newsletter!
If you either do not want to buy a subscription, or cannot afford to do so, then you are left wondering which of the 4 products contained the lead. This is naturally disconcerting particularly if you are using one of the 12 products that are listed.
This is the principle that I don't agree with, because they are creating an environment of fear and then forcing the consumer to pay money to either allay or confirm their fears. Now, if they just said we are testing 12 such and such type products and left it at that, fine, but to cast dispersions on innocent manufacturers is in my opinion not fair play.
On the other hand as a manufacturer you can have them test a product and if the results come up negative they will not publish it, providing you are paying for the service. If it comes up positive it will then be published.
So, as you see this is an operation geared solely towards profit, not public service, which many people think is the case, partly because of the name consumerlab.
OK...so what is the solution?
Well, we have thought long and hard about this and we are working on a model for Xtend-Life which I believe will be viable and affordable for us as a small specialty manufacturer.
Firstly, as I mentioned in an earlier blog posting we are going to be putting together a COA (certificate of analysis) for each batch of product and posting this on the website. This will mean that a customer will be able to view the COA for that specific batch of product before they purchase.
This will show the microbiological count, levels of heavy metals, etc, etc. Because each batch of product has its own unique batch number this will tie in with the bottle which has the batch number and date of manufacture on it.
As these COA's are prepared by an independent laboratory this would give the customer confidence about the purity of the product.
This would resolve the issue of purity but does not address the levels and identification of active ingredients.
So what can we do about this?
It's a difficult problem as is not practical to test each batch for this. If we did it would more than double the cost of the product even if it was only for a few selected ingredients. So, we have to look at rotational testing on random batches. In other words looking at testing several random ingredients at a time.
Now, this is not as simple as it sounds.
Well in the case of herbal extracts there is often an overlap of active nutrients in different herbs. So, whereas you may test for the main active ingredient in Bilberry for example, other herbal extracts may have the same active ingredient as a minor component.
This then throws out the readings. However, it is maybe possible to do further identification tests on these extracts where these are mixed together. We are discussing this option with a specialist laboratory right now. Vitamins, minerals and aminos etc are easy.
So, what are we going to do?
We are currently having discussions with independent certified laboratories in the USA, Europe and New Zealand about implementing an independent testing protocol.
Basically, what we have in mind is that we will find specialty laboratories for each group of nutrients. For example, we are talking to a lab in the USA that can segregate herbal extracts and overcome the problem mentioned above. Another laboratory would test some vitamins and minerals, another one specialty ingredients and so on.
We would test several ingredients in each category.
Each quarter the laboratories would unbeknown to us purchase product from us via the internet and select the ingredients in their field of expertise and do the testing.
The results of all the laboratories would be put together in a report and and published on both their web sites and ours.
From the consumers point of view this process would be fully independent and very comprehensive. We would never know what product they are selecting and/or which ingredients are being tested until after the testing has taken place.
We would always publish the results as we have total confidence that they will meet specifications.
Sometimes the reason why products do not contain what the label claims is not that the manufacturer has not put them in but rather that they are not properly blended, or, the raw ingredient suppliers have sold them incorrectly specified product.
In this regard we are like none other. Have a look at how we blend our products by clicking here. When you get to this page click on ingredient blending.
Hopefully this explanation will give our customer comfort in that not only do we make the claim that our products are true to label but we will be able to independently prove it.
In good health,