The Value of Third-party Certification for Sports Supplements

Edward Wyszumiala

November 9, 2011

2 Min Read
The Value of Third-party Certification for Sports Supplements

Consider this: 58 percent of student athletes use supplements, and 82 percent believe that supplements can improve their performance, according to the American College of Sports Medicine Journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise but how do consumers know what’s in these supplements?

Testing and certifying nutritional supplements and sport nutrition products helps ensure what’s on the label is in the bottle and that there are no athletic banned substances or unsafe levels of contaminants. Dietary supplements and nutritional products can be evaluated to verify that they are free of athletic banned substances and contaminants of concern. 

The certification process requires:

  •        Toxicological review of the label and formula to verify product formulation,

  •        Product testing to verify and quantify dietary ingredients declared on product label,

  •        Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) inspections and

  •        Contaminant screening, which involves testing to ensure there are no ingredients present that have not been declared on the label nor are there unsafe levels of contaminants.

Certification is one of the best ways to protect against potentially tainted supplements because of the rigorous testing that products must undergo, as well as GMP inspections. Certification, knowing the product has been screened for contaminants, provides peace of mind, for the consumer and the company.  Annual GMP audits and periodically retesting certified nutritional supplements confirm continued compliance with certification requirements on an ongoing basis.

But things can get complicated in the world of professional and elite athletes. At NSF International we offer additional certification for dietary supplements for this group, which involves screening over 160 athletic banned substances. That's in addition to contaminants. Ninety percent of the 11,000 athletes at the Games of the 29th Olympiad used dietary supplements of some kind, according to the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA).

Classes of compounds screened during testing and inspection are stimulants, narcotics, steroids, diuretics, beta-2-agonists, beta blockers, masking agents, as well as other substances on the various sport organization’s lists: World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), NFL, and MLB, NHL, PGA, and LPGA. 

The problem of “spiked” supplements has grown in recent years. The FDA has reminded dietary supplement companies of their legal responsibility to prevent tainted products from reaching the U.S. market and that the companies should take appropriate steps to ensure that their products do not contain adulterating substances that can cause serious adverse health consequences. Spiked or adulterated products in the marketplace can be minimized with the help of third-party certification labels. Consumers and athletes can trust third-party certification labels when purchasing supplements and can be confident that any products consumed won't result in accidental doping or adverse health effects. 

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