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Natural Products Foundation Blog

Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Dietary Supplement Conference Showcases NPF Expertise and Input
The Natural Products Foundation has been assisting the Food and Drug Law Institute with the planning of its upcoming conference "What You Need to Know Now about Emerging Dietary Supplement Issues & Trends." The event is being held Jan. 29-30 at the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel, in Washington, D.C. This intermediate level program is intended for regulatory affairs, legal, marketing, manufacturing, quality and consulting professionals working in the dietary supplements and dietary ingredients. To learn more about the conference, please go to www.fdli.org/conf/452/index.html
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
CAM Practices Go Mainstream

Over the years, complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) have attained increase stature in the medical community, and according to a new study, CAM practices are now very much integrated into mainstream culture. A new survey by the National Center of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) shows that nearly 40% of adults in the U.S. used some form of CAM therapy in 2007. Vitamins and supplements headed the list of CAM practices most people used, along with deep breathing, yoga, and meditation. The study found that a significantly higher percentage of women used CAM (42.8 percent v. 33.5 percent of men), as well as those with higher levels of education (55.4 percent of those with masters, doctorate or professional status were using CAM!). To listen to a rundown of the study, the NCHS has provided a podcast you can listen to right here, or if you'd prefer, a transcript right here.

Thursday, December 11, 2008
On Negative Supplement Treatment

By Craig Maltby, Guest Blogger

CNN launched its revamped health site this week: CNNHealth.com. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the popular CNN health reporter, published his first blog entry on the new site. He talked about the one supplement he takes daily -- fish oil -- then proceeded to instruct his audience that most supplements have no science behind them and people should not rely on them. At the same time today, news was released about a study showing more kids are taking nutritional supplements. The most popular one is fish oil. Yet, the AP story on the study had this quote: "The reality is none of these things work, including some of the more popular ones. They're placebos," said Wallace Sampson (an emeritus clinical professor of medicine at Stanford University) who is a founding editor of the Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine. Another health luminary in the Washington Post said homeopathy is "one step above fraud."

I left my comment on Dr. Gupta's blog:

"The professional health community, much like the professional investment community, is as confused and widely split as ever about their craft. Despite research reports and analysis coming out the wazu about financial markets, indicators and performance metrics, virtually no one, save for a few lone wolves shunned at every turn, predicted our global meltdown. And no one has a clue about how to effectively fix it.

"Health care experts berate us not to trust or use supplements because clinical evidence is non-existent. Yet, every day we read new papers published by many of the great academic centers touting new findings about various nutrients and supplements. For every clinician at Harvard who says supplements are bogus, there’s another researcher at Berkeley or Tufts who has significant new findings about efficacy of a certain nutritional compound. What’s the poor consumer to believe? I guess it goes to show medicine and health is just like any other discipline. There is no uniform voice or irrefutable doctrine. There is only educated guessing. If I guess that a supplement may deliver a benefit I desire and I believe it’s safe and of proper quality, I’m gonna try it."

Wednesday, December 3, 2008
FTC Asks for Public Comments on Advertising Changes

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is proposing alterations to the guidelines which control how advertisers are allowed to use endorsements and testimonials to publicize their products. The FTC's intention is to qualify many of the results seen in advertisements, noting that simply stating "actual results may vary" is no longer enough of a safeguard for the public.

"In these situations, such as with before-and-after pictures of dramatic weight loss, the disclaimer 'results may vary' or 'results not typical' is not going to fly anymore," said, Marc Ullman, a former DSIB Board member. "You'll need to go beyond that, with a disclosure more along the lines of '90 percent of product users lose between five and 10 pounds in four months,' which is dramatically different."

"What FTC is doing is clarifying principles that have developed in the past decade in case law, and putting that information in the guides so that advertisers don't have to track down specific results in FTC litigation," Ullman said. "If the person providing the testimonial is the company's office manager or the owner's brother-in-law, it must be disclosed."

This is one of the key changes put forth by the FTC's Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. There is some concern however that such measures will go too far, narrowly defining what is permissible, and unduly restricting promotion efforts. You can see the entire document in question right here. Additionally, the FTC will be accepting public comments on the revisions through Jan. 30, 2009.

You can read the comments which have already been sent to the FTC by the Natural Products Association and others at www1.ftc.gov.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Moyer to head USDA Organic Standards Board

Jeff Moyer, farm director of the Rodale Institute, has been elected as the 2009 chair of U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). The board elected Moyer at its meeting last week in Washington, D.C., elevating him from the 2008 vice-chair role. His five-year board term began three years ago.

“This is a critical time for the organic movement and industry as forces try to dilute its hard-fought integrity with marketing terms such as ‘sustainable’ and “natural,’” said Moyer, who has worked at Rodale Institute for more than 33 years. “It’s critical that we protect the standards and also continue to educate the public about the value of the ‘USDA Organic’ seal.”

Tim LaSalle, CEO of the Rodale Institute, emphasized the importance of organic as a solution to many of the key issues of our time, including global warming, human health challenges and worldwide hunger. “Organic agriculture provides critical human and ecological health benefits, so any erosion in standards is to steal from not only our own health but that of our children. We are pleased to know Jeff Moyer will lead this important board in assuring that the standards are maintained.”

The NOSB is the U.S. organic community’s high-profile and all-volunteer advisory body to the National Organic Program (NOP), which sets USDA organic policy as part of the Agricultural Marketing Service. The board receives robust levels of comment from a broad range of constituent organic groups and individuals at and between its multi-day meetings held several times per year.

The NOSB is the USDA’s only advisory group with statutory power mandating its advisory involvement. It functions under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, requiring it to have a high level of interaction and transparency. The board provides guidance on developing standards for substances and practices to be used in certified organic production, handling and processing.

“I value Jeff’s wealth of experience in organic agriculture and regulation. Furthermore I believe Jeff's unique leadership skills, along with his management and technical background, are what the Board requires to continue providing effective and timely results for the benefit of the organic community,” said Rigoberto Delgado, who steps down as NOSB chair on January 20, 2009. “I am pleased to say that Jeff's work with the Board has reflected his strong commitment to the principles and integrity of organic agriculture, and mirrors the values of the organization which he represents, the Rodale Institute.”

Moyer manages the 333-acre Rodale Institute research farm. He has refined the farm's cover cropping and crop-rotation systems, and was instrumental in developing its no-till roller/crimper, a tool which makes possible organic no-till crop farming.

He has helped countless farmers make the transition from conventional, chemical-based farming to organic or biologically sustainable methods. Throughout his national and international agricultural leadership, Moyer has brought a practical farmer’s perspective and approach to developing the future of organic agriculture.

He holds a farmer/grower seat on the board, and sits on the crops, livestock, materials and executive committees. He also worked with the aquaculture group which issued the NOSB’s first proposed rules for fish production at last week’s session. The current board is comprised of four farmers/growers, two handlers/processors, one retailer, one scientist, three consumer/public interest advocates, three environmentalists and one USDA accredited certifying agent (who sits on various committees).

Preparing to lead the board as it grapples with a new round of important issues—from creating guidance documents on biodiversity, to the definitions of what is considered “agricultural” or “non-agricultural” as substances for food handling or processing—Moyer affirmed what he said after that first year: “We do our best to protect the integrity of the organic industry but still allow for the expansion of the fullest range of products as organic continues to go mainstream.”

Natural Organics Program

Rodale Institute

Friday, November 21, 2008
Daschle Named Head of HHS

A quick note on a cabinet filling which is of interest to everyone around here: Former Democratic Senator Tom Daschle has been named Secretary of Health and Human Services for the new Obama administration. David Seckman, CEO of the Natural Products Association, had this to say about Daschle's appointment: "In the past, when he was a Senator, he supported complementary and alternative medicine bills. He knows about DSHEA. He knows about the benefits of supplements and preventative medicine."

After sixteen years as a Congressman and Senator, Daschle's announced position within the administration has received with near-universal praise. Earlier this year Daschle published a book about the current state of America's health care system, Critical: What we Can Do about the Healthcare Crisis. With his combination of experience and expertise on the field, Daschle should have no trouble clearing the nomination process and moving in to his post with the rest of the administration next January.

For more info about the Department of Health and Human Services, please consult their website: hhs.gov

Economic Resilience

In the face of adverse economic conditions, natural and organic products are holding their own in the marketplace. According to the most recent SPINS market research, the Natural Products Industry (NPI) has posted a 13.4 billion dollar growth from 2007, well over a 10% gain in sales. Overall, organic products showed the most upward momentum, gaining 13% over the last year, while subsections like body care products (+28.5%), frozen (+12.8%) and refrigerated products (14.7%), and general merchandise (+24.3%) all continued to show strong growth.

While markets have tightened and conventional retail has seen a sudden drop-off in sales over the past three months, the NPI has remained resilient, posting a steady growth of 8% over the last twelve weeks, some of the most dire in recent financial history. The quickest growing sectors of the industry are body care products and pet products, neither of which show any signs of slowing down at all, with new products entering the field every week. A huge key to sales growth that was noted was authenticity. Here is what SPINS CEO Tony Olsen had to say on the subject:

“As evidenced by the performance in the natural channel, authenticity of natural brands and retailers continue to be one of the key factors in product performance. Authenticity extends beyond whether a product is free of artificial flavors and ingredients and moves into the realm of overall health and wellness, social and environmental sustainability, nutritional benefits and other leading factors. A brand or retailer’s ability to resonate with a consumer on this level is a strong indicator of success in the conventional food, drug, mass channels.”

There are certainly hard times ahead for the economy. With that in mind, the current unflagging strength of the natural and organic products is certainly a bright spot, and health never goes out of fashion. By producing products which aid health and well-being, the industry may also bring a little health to a badly ailing economy.

For more details about SPINS, and about the most recent SPINS research, please follow the links below:

 

Friday, November 14, 2008
Google Flu Trends

Google.org has joined with Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to introduced Google Flu Trends, an incredibly accurate predictor of influenza levels. By noting the number of search queries about the flu their search engines receive, Google can actually predict how many people have flu symptoms, and by breaking the searches down by region, they can give you an idea how the flu spreads, the areas where it is most prevalent, and just how much of a risk you are at. Elegantly simple, and instantaneous, and the predictive results appear dead on with the traditionally gathered CDC data.

For the bigger picture, with interactive charts, maps of state by state flu levels, and further info, check it out here at Google Flu Trends.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008
NIH Research Advances

The Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health have just released their ninth annual report on the significant advances in dietary supplement research, a summation of 25 selected breakthroughs in the complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) field. We have covered some of the items on the DSIB website's blog (which you can see here: part 1, part 2, part 3), and you can view the report in its entirety on the National Institutes of Health page here: Research Advances Bibliography 2007

Socializing with NPF and DSIB

The DSIB and Natural Products Foundation have formed groups on two of the principal social networks on the web, and we'd like to invite anyone who is interested to join us! For members of the natural products industry, we have groups on both Plaxo and LinkedIn where we discuss all the current news and updates of the industry, share videos, blogs and pictures, and generally just put our heads together to move the industry forward. If you are already a member of either of these sites please feel free to jump into our groups, or if you haven't banded into social networking yet, allow us to welcome you in!


Natural Products Foundation@Plaxo.com

 

 

p.s. We also have a Myspace account (a little less group oriented, but fun all the same)!

Monday, November 10, 2008
Natural Personal Care Products Seal

As more and more people become aware of environmental issues and safety concerns, it is no surprise that there has been a seismic shift toward natural products. The move away from synthetic, mass manufactured (and marketed) consumption is growing by leaps and bounds, especially now that the Green movement has become a mainstream issue. A shining example of this shift is the personal care industry.

By focusing on making products that positively impact the health and well-being of both consumers and the environment, the personal care industry has set natural products at the forefront of the market's development. The natural personal care industry is growing at a rate five times that of regular personal care products. With such rapid ascendancy, care must be taken to ensure that we as an industry deliver on all of the benefits inherent in natural products.

And so first, a question that is of equal concern for both consumers and manufacturers: What is Natural?

Up until now, assurance of whether a personal care product were actually "natural" or not was a very difficult thing to know for sure, much less to figure out while browsing items in a store aisle. The natural personal care industry has been without a clear, authoritative third-party definition of what may be represented as a "natural" product and what may not. In order to help consumers navigate personal care product choices, The Natural Products Association has developed a natural standard for personal care products.

By working with the organizations responsible for manufacturing natural care products, the NPA has developed detailed standards for the industry production, making it simple to identify products which meet the standard set forth. All products which meet the necessary requirements will receive the Natural Products Association Seal of Certification, making the items quickly and easily identifiable for consumers as a verified natural personal care product.

"This seal is a great service to shoppers who want truly natural products because they care about what they put on their skin," said Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs for the Natural Products Association. "With this seal, shoppers can be confident that the product is natural, safe, responsible and sustainable. From now on, when you see this seal, you'll know it's real."

The following are some of the principal criteria for NPA certification:

  • The product must be made up of at least 95% truly natural ingredients that are derived from natural sources
  • There are to be no ingredients with any potential suspected human health risks
  • There can be no processes in the manufacturing of the product that significantly or adversely alter the purity/effect of the natural ingredients
  • Ingredients must come from a purposeful, renewable/plentiful source found in nature (flora, fauna, mineral)
  • Manufacturing processes must be minimal and not use synthetic/harsh chemicals or otherwise dilute purity
  • Unnatural ingredients are acceptable only when viable natural alternative ingredient are unavailable and there are absolutely no suspected potential human health risks

For a full list of the NPA Standards and Certifications, click here.
For a list of approved ingredients, click here.

If your company is interesting in applying for NPA certification for a natural personal care product, below are the general guidelines, as well as a link to the application: 

(All guidelines are in place to ensure that the integrity of the seal is maintained)
  • Only brands with at least 60% of their products meeting the association’s standard are permitted to use the seal, and the seal can only be used on those products that specifically meet the standard.
  • Manufacturers have permission and are strongly encouraged to use the seal on packaging, communications, etc., as allowed by the Natural Products Association.
  • Retailers are permitted and strongly encouraged to use the seal as education for those products in their stores that meet the standard.
  • A committee at the Natural Products Association will oversee the usage of the seal to ensure its integrity is maintained.
  •  

GMPs and Small Businesses

The FDA's new Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) legislation is to be implemented between now and 2010, but just exactly how this is to be achieved, especially for smaller companies, is as yet unclear. Large companies (500 employees+) have already undergone the transition; Medium sized companies have until June of the coming year to meet the regulations, while small companies (those with less than 20 employees) have until June of 2010 to bring themselves in line with the new rules.

Thus far however, how the FDA will interpret and put the regulations into practice is a hazy issue, one that is only partially enlightened by the language put forth with initiation of the GMP legislation. So how are small companies to keep up, not only with larger concerns, but with GMP deadlines that are closing in? According to Dr. Vasilios Frankos, director of the agency's Division of Dietary Supplement Programs, help is on the way. At the recent Supply Side West conference in Las Vegas, Dr. Vasilios stated that a compliance guide for small companies will be forthcoming with the new year. A Small Entity Compliance Guide will act to iron out the requirements in plain language, helping to ease the transition of the large group of small business that will be effected by the new standards. We will post updates on the guide as they happen, as well as any other developments concerning GMPs.

For more information about some of the challenges and struggles that small businesses face as the GMPs are put into action, have a listen to this podcast from Nutra Ingredients USA: The biggest challenges in making GMPs work. The Natural Products Association's Daniel Fabricant is among the experts interviewed, and the discussion gives a very clear picture of the challenges and opportunities ahead for the industry.

FDA Nutrition Roundtable Discussion with Stakeholders

The FDA has just announced that it will host a Nutrition Roundtable Discussion on Friday, December 12, 2008, at the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. The meeting is scheduled to last from 1:00 to 3:30 PM, and it will be in the Harvey W. Wiley Building, 5100 Paint Brance Parkway, College Park, Maryland.

The agency intends to share information about nutrition activities and will be providing status updates for Functional Foods, Health Claims, Evidence Based Review Guidance, Critical Path project on Biomarkers for use in Health Claims, Front-of-Pack Labeling, the implementation of section 912 of FDAAA, and other issues.

The roundtable discussion will be lead by Stephen Sundlof D.V.M, Ph.D.; FDA associate commissioner David Acheson will be also be in attendance, and there will be a question and answer session as well.

If you are interesting in attending, the following link leads to the FDA's registration forms for the meeting: Registration for Roundtable Discussion -- Nutrition Roundtable Discussion with Stakeholders

Friday, October 31, 2008
Industry-sponsored research is praised!!?? Whoa!
By guest-blogger Craig Maltby

How many times have we all knocked our heads against the wall because of the chilly reception given to good data produced in association with supplement company sponsorship? Health reporters or scientific groups many times give short shrift to findings--even published research--that is generated through private-company funding.

Well, a New York Times blog offering today shows that maybe the perception could change. The blogger, John Tierney, cites a new report in the International Journal of Obesity that shows industry-funded research in the obesity field is many times of better quality than purely institutional-sponsored research.

Here's the link to the story: NYTimes: ‘Misleading’ Research From Industry?

A Wall Street Journal Blog piece several weeks ago talked about university budgets being pinched, and how that would affect medical research. I commented on that blog that academic research could not happen on the scale it does without private company funding. Don't get me wrong; some companies may not get it, and try to steer every step of a trial toward a desired outcome. Hopefully, those companies are few, and the respected research venues will reject them at every turn. But for those firms who want to help broaden the knowledge base in a field or even in a specific application, and are willing to accept results that are favorable, unfavorable or inconclusive, there should be a place at the public investigative table for them.

 


For more by Craig, check out www.planningandwriting.com, or contact him at craig@planningandwriting.com

Tuesday, October 7, 2008
TABS Vitamin and Supplement Usage Results

The TABS Group has released their most recent quarterly results tracking vitamin, mineral, and supplement usage. The most surprising finding this quarter was the elevated sales for fish oil. The study found that 21% of all adults age 18-75 have purchased fish oil in the past six months, a rather dramatic increase, putting the supplement’s sales on level with sales of letter vitamins (also at 21%). Such precipitous growth has brought this relatively new type of supplement to the forefront, resulting in increased mainstream attention and further gains in sales.

Of the several other interesting trends noted in the study, here are the principal findings:

• Two-thirds of the public have purchased something from the vitamin, mineral, or supplement categories over the last six months, a relatively stable figure over the last several studies.

• Coenzyme Q10 and Acidophilus have still performed as niche products despite their strong sales growth. Claimed purchase was 5% for CoQ10 and 4% for Acidophilus.

• Multivitamins continue to have the highest purchasing strength, with over half of all respondents reporting to have bought multivitamins in the last 6 months.

• Despite its reputation as a supplement to support women’s susceptibility to osteoporosis, one-third of the purchasers of calcium are men.

The TABS Group Study is a conducted quarterly, and examines consumer behavior over the six months previous to the study. Next quarter the TABS report will shift focus to the purchasing habits for all organic and natural products.

TABS Group

Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Adverse Event Reportage

USA Today, the most widely circulated English language newspaper in the world, reported yesterday that there were 604 adverse event notices connected to dietary supplements in the first half of 2008, as reported by the FDA. This is the first time reporting adverse events has been mandated by the FDA, which instituted a new law that required the reports last year. 368 of the notifications came from supplement manufacturers, and 236 from consumers or health care providers. From USA Today:

An adverse event can be anything from a concern that a supplement isn't working to a serious illness that follows consumption. FDA spokesman Michael Herndon said five deaths and 85 hospitalizations were reported through April 15, the most current numbers available. "Some of these deaths were likely due to underlying medical conditions," he says.

What the article does not address at length however, is the fact that the FDA took in 450,000 adverse event reports about pharmaceutical drug cases in the last year, a fact discussed in a recent news release by NutraUSA. This is quite the discrepancy, to say the least.

USA Today does go on to mention that the number of events noted so far this year were far fewer than initially expected. The numbers are well within the predicted range, and what is more, compared with pharma-drugs, they are looking really rather exceptional, as was noted by Daniel Fabricant, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs of the Natural Products Association. He went on to say:

“NPA was a big supporter of the law and played a pivotal role in its passage. We most certainly believe the law is doing what it was intended to do: protect the consumer. And we believe it is bearing out what we’ve said along, that dietary supplements are an overwhelming safe consumer product. This is especially true when judged against the same reporting standards used for prescription medications, medical devices and over-the-counter drugs."

To have a look for yourself, here are the two different ways of reporting on such a story:

 

Let us know what you think about the articles' differing presentations by commenting below.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Industry Page's New Home

Dear Industry Supporter,

As you may have heard, the Dietary Supplement Education Alliance (DSEA) has merged into the Natural Products Foundation (NPF). We are moving ahead together as a strong, unified group meeting the mission: To enhance and promote the integrity of natural products through quality, science and education.

To better serve the industry, we have moved the DSEA Industry webpage to the Natural Products Foundation website, http://naturalproductsfoundation.org/members.

We are developing this as the page where you, as members of the industry, can find news, videos, and all kinds of important information. This also will be the place for you to communicate with other industry members through blogs and forums.

Furthermore, we're looking expanding our blogging presence online by featuring guest writers—industry friends and internet faves of ours—experts in their fields. We see this as a chance to reach out to the community, expand the subject matter discussed, and to consider the many sides of any given discussion.

The DSIB has already had the pleasure of hosting columns by many industry experts, and at present there are future posts forthcoming by many new faces. We would like to present the input of interested parties, and take this opportunity to extend an invitation to industry members who might be interested in writing an NPF-hosted guest column. Please email NPF@npainfo.org for more information about submitting your own post.

Thanks so much for everyone's involvement, and we look forward to new faces and columns soon to be appearing at naturalproductsfoundation.org.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Welcome to the NPF Blog

Hello and welcome to the Natural Products Foundation Blog, featuring contributing content from our staff, industry experts, Scientific Advisory Board members and other industry supporters that reflects the views and opinions of the Natural Products Foundation. This blog is intended for fellow industry members, and we encourage feedback and debate.

We'll be adding more entries soon, so please check back often.

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