What’s in Your Supplements?
By Megan Barber, Wellness Buyer, Co-op Owner
Supplement consumers may have heard in recent news that the New York Attorney General, Eric T. Schneiderman, sent a cease and desist order to several major retailers that were carrying various products like ginseng and echinacea that did not contain the listed ingredients or that contained ingredients that were not listed on the label. The products were tested using DNA verification methods that match the DNA contained in the supplements to the original plant species. The results were staggering, and the retailers were asked to stop selling the products immediately. This misleading and false advertising is illegal and poses risks to consumers who might have allergies to ingredients not listed on the labels. In fact,they found that: “…79% [of tested supplements were] coming up empty for DNA related to the labeled content or verifying contamination with other plant material.”
The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does require companies to verify safety and label products correctly, but it does not require supplements to go through their rigorous evaluation process it has set up for drugs, which can include ingredient information, clinical trials, side effects, and manufacturing processes. Clearly, this has left many consumers wondering what companies they can trust. At GreenTree, quality is one of our biggest concerns, so we wanted to share the research we have done into some of our supplement companies with you. The following information is what we have found:
Oregon’s Wild Harvest: Redmond, OR 97756
Oregon’s Wild Harvest (OWH) started in 1990, and began working towards an organic certification that was completed in 1994. Randy Buresh, co-founder, grew up on a farm, but specialized in the medical field and started into natural herbal medicine when he began looking for less invasive medical treatments. The second co-founder is Pamela Martin, she solidified her commitment to natural healing when she came into contact with an unknown toxin, and was fairly ill for three months before the use of natural medicines detoxified her body, leaving her healthy once again. This duo has guided OWH’s success for over 20 years, and the company continues to strive for the freshest, purest, safest, and most effective herbal supplements. To provide quality products, they must undergo rigorous testing multiple times. Their goal is to: “Adhere to a responsible practice of environmental stewardship, validated scientific research, and the strictest of production standards to preserve the integrity and natural therapeutic properties of our quality organic herbs.”
It all starts on the farm. OWH’s organic farms and wild crafted crops are not treated with pesticides or chemicals, and are free from genetically modified organisms. The crops are sustainably farmed to ensure land quality for future generations as well as the quality of heritage seeds and plants. For wild crafted crops, they never harvest more than a third of the plants, ensuring the next year’s regrowth. They do not harvest wild plants in areas where pollutants may be possible, which means staying away from commercial farms and roadways. If certain plants are endangered, the farms and products are verified by a third-party certifier to ensure that they are the correct species. The current third-party certifier for OWH is Oregon Tilth. The manufacturing process of OWH has strict organic standards (higher than the current standards of the federal government) that are enforced by Oregon Tilth. Each processing room and all equipment is inspected with an environmental swabbing program before each and every use, verifying sanitation.
The laboratory has been certified for food grade business since 1995 and is a certified organic processor. Herbs are converted into extracts immediately after harvest. Each plant is genetically identified to ensure that the right species was collected. Every part of the process, from soil quality to herbal excellence, follows strict Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs). There are trainings provided to educate about allergens, cleaning, sanitation, monitoring, and management, as well as periodic audits of the facility and raw materials.
Safety is a top priority, and the company exceeds the FDA’s labeling requirements – providing customers with interactions, allergen information, and potential contraindications. With Oregon’s Wild Harvest products, consumers know exactly what they are getting right on the label of each and every product.
Visit http://www.oregonswildharvest.com/standards/production_facility for more information on Oregon’s Wild Harvest practices and certifications.
Garden of Life: Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
Jordan Rubin founded Garden of Life (GoL) after his recovery from Crohn’s disease. GoL strives to empower people to take control of their health and achieve extraordinary, premium nutrition. The company takes steps to certify as many products as possible under the Organic seal of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Essentially, this means that there are no pesticides, herbicides, etc. used, no genetically modified organisms, and that the products contain 95% or more of Certified Organic content. The USDA’s Organic Seal requires: No irradiation, no sewage sludge, no synthetic fertilizers no prohibited pesticides, no genetically modified organisms (GMOs), adherence to animal health and welfare standards, zero antibiotics or growth hormones, 100 % organic feed, giving animals access to the outdoors, specific soil and water conservation methods, and pollution reduction.
In addition to the USDA organic seal, GoL is also verified by the Non-GMO Project. This verification involves an annual audit and on site inspections, rigorous traceability practices for ingredients, and ensures products containing more than 0.9% GMOs must be labeled. Garden of Life also uses six other third-party organizations to ensure their products are of the highest quality for consumers’ health. With these certifications from outside companies, GoL also strives for GMPs. At GoL, they use extensive documentation and training to follow these practices, along with preventative and corrective actions. The company works alongside manufacturers and raw material suppliers to audit and verify raw material identities, and works to maintain their current high standards for quality assurance. All finished products undergo testing for pathogens and have passed in tests such as heavy metals, microbial analysis, and ingredient identification.
Visit http://www.gardenoflife.com/Our-Company.aspx for more information on Garden of Life’s business practices and certifications.
Frontier Coop: Norway, IA
Based in Iowa, the two-man operation called Frontier Cooperative first got off the ground in 1976. Since they are a cooperative, they are owned by their wholesale customers internationally – similarly to how GreenTree Cooperative is owned by its members in and around Mt. Pleasant. Frontier Co-op is committed to sustainability for future generations, social responsibility through organic agriculture, and fair business dealings with suppliers around the world: “In all that we do, at all times and with all people, we will conduct our affairs and the affairs of the company with absolute integrity.”
Frontier Co-op holds numerous certifications and is constantly striving for better practices. One of which includes Kosher Certification. In order to be certified Kosher, the certifiers must inspect every container, conveyor, piece of processing equipment and packaging machinery to ensure that no non-kosher items could contaminate. Most seasonings and spices sold at Frontier Co-op are Kosher. The company also has a superior rating from AIB International, a third party certifier founded by the North American wholesale and retail baking industries in 1919. Frontier Co-op holds an Organic certification from Quality Assurance International as well. In their Aura Cacia line of aromatherapy products, their essential oils also undergo meticulous testing. They are examined physically through sensory evaluation, optical rotation, specific gravity, and gas chromatography to ensure the oils are 100% pure and authentic.
An inspection occurs pre-shipment on each product – herbs, spices, oils, and much more. Frontier Co-op and independent labs test for flavor, color, aroma, moisture, bacteria count, pesticides and herbicides. Once samples are approved and the shipment arrives at Frontier Co-op’s facilities, they are kept in a climate controlled area where strict sanitation rules apply. The quality assurance team monitors every happening, from the temperature to a single ingredient’s origin. When possible, Frontier Co-op uses only organic ingredients. They carefully control everything from sanitation practices to allergen control. In their facility, they do work with some allergens, but upon arrival the allergens are identified, labeled, and isolated away from the rest of the production to help prevent contamination. Along with their watch on potential allergens, Frontier Co-op succeeds in never receiving, using, or producing GMOs.
Visit http://www.frontiercoop.com/company/history.php# for more information on Frontier Cooperative.