It is Safe? Or is it Secret?
You may have heard about the recent DNA testing done by Guelph University on 44 natural health products. While the findings may have been shocking to some, for those of us in the natural health food/supplement industry it was more a matter of, “Er, and this is a surprise?”
Like anything, there are good products and there are those you really don’t want to give your children. I spend a lot of time investigating companies, calling companies, requesting independent clinical trial results (giving myself headaches reading the stuff) and getting to know the companies I’m willing to buy from (or recommend). There are wonderful supplement-manufacturing companies I trust literally with my life and others that I wouldn’t touch for any reason. I encourage you investigate too.
NPN (Natural Product Number)
In Canada you’ll find a small NPN on most supplements these days (all the legal ones anyway). That number means that Health Canada has investigated the health claims made by the company for the ingredients in the supplement, has investigated the science and studies conducted on those ingredients, and has deemed them both safe and effective for the claims made.
Does that mean all products carrying an NPN are always safe and worth buying? Unfortunately, no! There is a difference between a ‘tested ingredient’ and a ‘tested product’. There shouldn’t be of course, but… well… welcome to the real world.
You may have heard local experts stating that Health Canada tests all natural health products on the market. No, they don’t. Don’t take my word for it; call Health Canada and ask, or check the Myths or Product Licensing pages on our government’s website.
Health Canada has guidelines for others for testing that a specific ingredient does a specific thing and Health Canada “accepts” other’s reports, ”including references in published studies, journals, or pharmacopoeias”. Look for NPNs certainly, (and question why not if a product doesn’t have one!), however, understand that just because a product is being sold, even with an NPN, it’s unfortunately no guarantee that what’s on the label is what’s in the bottle - ask Guelph University about that. Sometimes, buying a “great deal!” really isn’t.
I see a growing number of products being sold locally that have no NPN on the label and when I apply the list below to the company making the products I find a shocking number of solid No answers coming up.
Questions to Consider for Reputable Supplement Companies
Does the company have a professional website?
Are they willing to make their health claims public and easy to find?
Are the ingredient lists detailed? (“Proprietary blends” can sometimes be used to circumvent having to list the actual amounts of each ingredient. And no ingredient lists at all is a bad thing.)
If it’s a probiotic, does it list both the name AND the actual strain (which will look something like HA-135 after the name.) If not, why not?
Can you find the studies conducted on the ingredients they use or do they just claim “studies show…!”?
Can you find official government registration information about the company? Who runs it? Where is it registered?
Can you contact them? Do they answer the phone when you call? Do they return calls if you leave a message?
Are they helpful and do they have documented experts available to share real facts?
Are they willing to tell you from where their ingredients are imported and where their products are manufactured?
Have they participated in clinical studies of their own?
Do they have any sort of independent quality control?
Too many No answers in that list tends to find me looking for another company. Don’t be afraid to ask these questions where you shop. If it needs to be secret, how can you be sure it’s safe?
M Sims CNPA