The Cost of Convenience: Amazon Warns About Fake Supplements
You can trust the Emerson Quality Program (EQP) because it was devised as a way to provide practitioners with a quick and easy way to discern high quality brands and products.
When we ask practitioners why they dispense dietary supplements to patients through Emerson Ecologics and/or Wellevate®, the response we hear most often is they want patients to have access to high quality products. Patients, however, may be swayed by convenient delivery and rock-bottom prices, and purchase supplements elsewhere. The idea of quality may not even enter their minds when they consider where to buy.
That might be about to change.
On July 19, 2019, Wired magazine reported that Amazon customers who purchased probiotics under the brand name “Align” from some Amazon merchants were notified to dispose of the products due to suspicion the products were counterfeit.
According to the Wired article, Amazon was issuing refunds to affected customers but did not respond to the author’s question as to whether Amazon would test these specific counterfeit products to identify whether they contained harmful ingredients. Even if harmful ingredients were found, legal precedent establishes that a retailer like Amazon would not be responsible for the goods sold by its third-party sellers.
How can consumers–you and your patients–be sure the products you buy are authentic, stored properly and not expired? Look for a supply chain with no risk of counterfeit goods. Easier said than done, right? But that’s exactly what Emerson Ecologics offers through the Emerson Quality Program (EQP)®.
A Closer Look at EQP®
The Emerson Quality Program, launched in 2009, was devised as a way to provide practitioners with a quick and easy way to discern high quality brands and products, by providing a visible gold or silver seal when shopping on the Emerson ECologics website. Today, in an environment where supplement quality is at the forefront, we are dedicated to making the program even more meaningful and relevant to practitioners—saving you time and helping you improve your clinical outcomes.
Every brand in the Emerson Ecologics portfolio, meets the minimum quality hurdle of cGMP compliance. However, our quality criteria is much higher for Silver and Gold EQP partners. We conduct in-depth reviews of their production processes and review all batch records for a specified product lot, including their ingredient testing documentation. This includes a certificate of analysis and lab test results. Then, we send that product off to our own qualified labs to independently test and make sure we get the same results. This is a spot check, to test a parameter of quality and confirm what we expect.
Once a supplier meets initial documentation criteria, then members of our Quality Department conduct a thorough on-site audit of the entire manufacturing facility, to ensure they are not only meeting, but exceeding industry standards in the manufacturing of their products. Our Quality team is looking to verify that the company is strictly following their policies and processes to ensure the quality, purity, safety and potency of their products.
Even after a brand is accepted as an EQP partner, the program requires that we continue to test their products a minimum of twice per year, with follow up on-site re-verification audits every 3 years. We take our quality commitment to our customers very seriously, and our EQP process allows us to feel confident that we’re offering you the best.
What does the Emerson Ecologics EQP Program test for?
We send top selling products from our EQP partner brands to third party labs quarterly to test for one of many parameters. Heavy metals, solvents, pesticides and herbicides, microbiological contaminants and potency are included in these parameters and the most relevant ones for each product are tested. We occasionally test for ingredient identity, for specific speciation of plants (making sure herbs aren’t adulterated or “cut” with less effective, cheaper species) and for contaminants (like triclosan). We follow industry adulteration alerts, regulatory agency warnings, national news reports and trending consumer concerns to inform our independent testing program.
What happens if a product fails?
First of all, it is essential to set the stage by saying that testing finished products, meaning the capsules in your bottle, is challenging. Much of the identity and purity testing conducted on products is done early on in the process, before ingredients are mixed and packaged into a finished good. After a single ingredient is blended with other ingredients, including inactive ingredients, it can be much more difficult to interpret results. For example, in 2011, Consumer Labs incorrectly published that a top selling fish oil tested rancid. However, it was a lemon flavoring added to the finished product that led to a false positive for that test.
If a product fails to meet testing specifications, we report this to the manufacturer, and request an investigation. We have had an instance where our lab made a calculation error and reported a failed result, but the brand noted the error, which the lab later confirmed. The brand can also choose to have the product (same lot) retested by a more appropriate method. However, if the product doesn’t pass a retest, then it is suspended from sale. In cases where products fail testing, the brand is subject to removal from the EQP program unless they can validate that the problem has been remedied, and that their other products are not affected.
While testing finished products can be a complicated process, it is one of the tools that we use coupled with manufacturing site visits, quality report submissions, and open dialogues with our supplier partners to help ensure that our customers have confidence in supplement quality. If you have any questions about quality or our EQP program, please reach out to our Medical Education team at (800) 654-4432. We are here to help answer your questions and ensure that you find products that meet your exacting standards. We look for companies that go above and beyond FDA’s current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) requirements and get third-party certifications related to their manufacturing practices. Voluntary certifications for good manufacturing practices include NSF International and NPA (Natural Products Association). And those are just a starting point. The EQP program ensures that participating companies distributed through Emerson Ecologics and Wellevate exceed the standards of cGMPs. We encourage you to share this blog post with your patients and start a dialogue about the importance of quality. They want to know that the products they purchase are safe, effective, and worth the cost. With the EQP program behind your in-office and online dispensaries, you can assure them that what they think they’re ordering is what they’ll get.
NY Times article: Amazon Counterfeit Fake Products
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