Quality of Your Supplements

Once it’s determined that the ingredients are likely to be safe and effective, the final step is to identify a high-quality product. This step in the process can be particularly challenging because of the disparate manufacturing standards used throughout the dietary supplement industry.
Some industry groups have attempted to resolve this issue through self-regulation and industry-developed GMPs. Some private organizations have also attempted to address these problems by conducting laboratory analysis on dietary supplements and identifying problematic products. But none of these efforts provides a comprehensive, independent program for assuring product quality.

In 2001, the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) launched a new program to address the issue of dietary supplement quality.

A Snapshot of USP
  • Founded in 1820
  • Independent, nongovernmental, not-for-profit company
  • Three governing bodies made up entirely of volunteers
    • Convention membership (policy body)
    • Board of Trustees (fiduciary body)
    • Council of Experts and Expert Committees (scientific body)
  • Official standards-setting authority in the US
  • Sets quality standards for Rx and OTC drugs and dietary supplements

The USP program is the most rigorous and comprehensive dietary supplement quality program available. USP conducts a rigorous process of tests and reviews before awarding the USP-Verified Mark to a brand name dietary supplement. Manufacturers voluntarily apply for verification. The process ensures that the supplements meet USP’s high standards for integrity, purity, and potency:

  • Experienced USP scientists direct the testing of supplement samples in well-equipped laboratories. They test these supplements against the official, FDA-recognized public standards that USP itself establishes.
  • USP audits the supplement manufacturer’s facilities, practices, records, and quality control measures.
  • USP tests marketplace samples of verified products to ensure that they continue to retain ingredient strength and stability over their shelf life.
  • Where needed, USP helps manufacturers improve their quality systems or reformulate their products to deliver the intended ingredients.
  • USP reviews supplement labels to ensure that the ingredients are properly listed and that appropriate dosage information and warnings/cautions/contraindications are featured.
USP Verified Supplements
  • Reliably contain the ingredients listed on the product label in declared strengths and amounts.
  • Will break down and release ingredients in the body within a specified amount of time.
  • Do not contain harmful levels of contaminants.
  • Have been manufactured using Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) as defined by USP.

As of February 2007, over 800 dietary supplement products have received the USP-Verified Mark.