Pharmacists Give NSP a
White Glove” Inspection
Among the more than 800 attendees of NSP’s first annual New Manger Convention in 1993 were two pharmacists from Fort Wroth, Texas. Following their tour of Nature’s Sunshine’s manufacturing facility in Spanish Fork, Utah, they shared their observations with Sunshine Horizons, the distributors bi-monthly magazine.
Philip Orr, who just sold his pharmacy after 42 years of community service, had been told that Nature’s Sunshine manufactures its products by pharmaceutical standards of cleanliness, accuracy and scientific testing.
“I was quite impressed with the plant and quality control,” he said. “These things are very important to me. Nature’s Sunshine certainly measures up to other large pharmaceutical operations I have toured. I think NSP has a standard beyond the large commercial operations.”
We spoke with Burl Daniel so of Fort Worth. He has a network of five pharmacists throughout the country selling Nature’s Sunshine Products, especially the homeopathic line.
The minute Burl walked in the door of our manufacturing plant, he was impressed. Having toured several large drug company plants over the years, he decided that what he saw in Spanish Fork “far exceeded any of them. The employees are people oriented as well as science oriented. The cleanliness and organization of the whole operation was professionally done.” he said. “As far as I am concerned, it was top order.” —1993
NSPs’ Quality & Standards
I worked for Packaging Digest magazine during the late 60’s to mid 70’s and was their designated “expert” on food, drug and cosmetics packaging. I toured the manufacturing facilities of every major pharmaceutical company in America. What I saw there was many steps above the putrid environment of the Chicago slaughterhouses, the disgusting Kitchens of Sara Lee or the rodent, roach and creepy crawlier infested environs of the Campbell Soup Company. HOWEVER, even the drug manufacturing facilities were NOT CLEAN. In all those years of tours, I saw nothing to compare with the Nature’s Sunshine manufacturing and testing facilities. NSP is the ONLY CLEAN one I have ever seen. When I toured the NSP facility in 1985, dozens of employees eagerly answered all the really tough questions I could think of and I can think of a few. I came away thoroughly impressed and I often use this personal knowledge in explaining Nature’s Sunshine Products.
As a senior editor, I attended every food and drug industry meeting held, including those devoted to labeling for nutritional content. Listening carefully, I concluded that eating anything canned or served from a steam table was tantamount to sweeping the floor and eating the dirt I collected. And I MEAN that. Such foods contains virtually have NO NUTRIENT CONTENT, because heat degrades the nutrients it might have contained. Canned food is 100% valueless at the end of 3 months unless it’s stored at 52 degrees F. When was the last time you were in a grocery store THAT cold?
The steam table food is dead by lunchtime. Industry studies illustrate that frozen foods, including vegetables, are thawed and refrozen on average of 5-1/2 times before you buy them, so they load them with chemical preservatives.
In the end, their “nutrient value” was decided to be that of fresh food, cooked at high temperature for a short time! What a hoax! If you believe that, then you must believe that these companies, who load their foods with preservatives, dyes, etc., have PERFECT Quality Control. I, for one, do not because I know better. — 12/7/01
ALL TABLETS ARE “NOT” CREATED EQUAL
You pop those vitamin tablets in your mouth, slash’em down with a swallow of water and you’re set. Now you’ve got your daily requirement of vitamin X or so you thought.
The truth of the matter is, perhaps you took the tablet, but you may not get the vitamin! The reason is, all tablets are not created equal. That is, some tablets dissolve when swallowed and some don’t. It’s one thing to press a vitamin formula powder into a solid tablet form for consumption; it’s quite another to have it dissolve enough to nourish the body.
Disintegration and dissolution are two critical considerations when making tables. In order for a vitamin tablet to effectively release its nutrients into the digestive system, it must readily dissolve in the stomach or soon after leaving the stomach. If a tablet is so hard that it remains largely undissolved, then it becomes nearly useless to the body, leaving almost none of its valuable nutrients behind.
On the other hand, a tablet must be sturdy enough to resist breaking and crumbling in the bottle with normal use. No one, expecting tablets, wants to get powder. The very act of shaking a tablet to two out of the bottle into your hand damages the remaining tablets. All the shaking it takes to get a bottleful of tablets out, over time, can turn the last few tablets to powder and crumbs if they are not hard.
Most companies, especially the over-the-counter variety, don’t give it a second thought. “Make it and sell it!” seems to be their motto. They don’t want the tablets they make to fall apart in the bottle because the customers would see it and complain or worse yet they wouldn’t buy again. So they make their tablets hard enough to withstand the worst jostling. (We have found tablets on the market that fail to dissolve after a full 24 hours.) These manufacturers seem unconcerned that their rock hard tablets go undissolved in your body, leaving you as vitamin poor as you were before you swallowed them. You don’t see it, so you are unaware that a problem exists.
Nature’s Sunshine takes the time to look much more closely. By employing sophisticated test equipment that simulates the effects of digestion on a tablet, we are able to determine the solubility of any tablet. And we’ve found a happy medium between hard and soft. By adjusting the composition of the tablet and the pressure at which it is made. We can assure you that our tablets are hard enough to withstand normal handling without significant damage, yet soft enough to dissolve fully in the body, at the appropriate point in the digestive process to fully benefit the body.
Who would have thought that so much consideration, testing and effort could go into making a little tablet? Nature’s Sunshine Products, that’s who.
As a company, Nature’s Sunshine Products takes enormous pride in the quality of the products we offer. Indeed, quality is the first part of the Nature’s Sunshine creed “Quality, Service, and Integrity.” In order to produce high quality products, we start with the finest raw materials available.
We subject each incoming shipment of raw materials to a battery of tests to establish the quality of the material before we use it in any of our products. Because quality is so important, we continuously test and re-test raw materials and products throughout the entire production process. NSP has invested millions of dollars in high-tech testing equipment to ensure that our methods and facilities are state-of-the-art. And we employ quality control experts who conduct a total of over 600 different testing procedures.
The health products Nature’s Sunshine offers are the very best in the world, and we are committed to leading the industry in product testing and overall product quality. This booklet provides helpful information about some of the tests we conduct so you can better understand the stringent testing procedures NSP follows and can have the utmost confidence in the product we offer.
TESTING PROCEDURES AND INFORMATION
By testing for and counting the bacteria on machinery, equipment, and personnel in the production area, we can evaluate the standard hygiene level and the efficiency of our cleaning procedures. By checking the bacteria counts in the production areas we ensure that our products will not become contaminated in the manufacturing plant.
NSP utilizes two different methods to test for bacteria: swabbing methods and a device called a bactometer, which uses advanced computer technology to test for the presence of bacteria in raw materials, liquids, and finished products.
Total Bacteria testing
To determine the number of microbes which might be contaminating a product, we take a total plate count. We test a sample of raw material or finished product and determine the amount of aerobic microbe contamination in the sample. We then compare this count to our stringent allowable spec levels. If any raw material counts are higher than allowable levels, the batch is rejected and returned to the vendor. Finished products are also audited to ensure they meet NSP quality specifications.
Mold and Yeast testing
We regularly perform yeast and mold counts by using a count plate. A count plate is a specialized dish which contains the elements a mold or yeast would need to sustain life if it were present and a dye which helps these organisms appear visible.
E. coli testing
The dangers of Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria are well known. Present in large enough quantities, this bacteria can be fatal. NSP tests raw materials for the presence of E. coli using specially designed E. coli count plates which contain an indicator that turns the bacteria blue if present. This allows for visual identification of the bacteria and, of course, rejection of that particular batch of raw material.
Salmonella bacteria is responsible for many food poisoning cases. NSP tests for salmonella bacteria in herb raw materials and products using what is called a 1-2 test, This test allows us to obtain results much more quickly than standard culture methods.
HERB AND PURITY TESTING
Organoleptic ID testing
This is usually the first step in the identification of herb samples coming into the Quality Assurance testing area. This analysis includes testing with the senses, i.e. checking the taste, odor, color and appearance of the raw herb material.
A microscopic evaluation is performed on incoming herb samples to validate exactly which plant parts the sample contains (roots, leaves, fruit, bark) and to look for any foreign matter, such as insect parts. This test involves the preparation of a slide of each herb powder to be tested. By analyzing the cell structure of the sample under the microscope, we can confirm the plant species, cell type (part of plant) and see possible contamination.
Thin Layer Chromatography (TLC)
TLC is a reliable analytical technique that allows us to identify herbs and measure their quality. Different components of an herb extract are separated from each other using adsorption and capillary action. These components are spotted onto a plate, and the intensity of the spots represents the concentration of each component in the extract. Trained personnel can identify the components by color, and colorless substances are identified by using a special detecting spray or ultraviolet light. The TLC test allows us to “fingerprint” the herb sample and compare it to a library of known standards. Used in combination with the FTIR test, we can be assured that the key components in a particular herb are present in the sample. NSP occasionally uses TLC to do comparison testing. We test NSP products against similar products made by competitors to ensure that the NSP products potency and purity are greater than that of our competitors.
Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR)
Its official name is Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy. The FTIR herb test validates the authenticity and purity of an herb sample. A beam of infrared light is passed through a sample of the herb. As the beam shines on the sample, the sample absorbs energy from the beam at certain frequencies. If we chart the frequencies at which the sample absorbs energy, we get the “absorption spectrum” of the herb. No two herbs have the exact same absorption spectrum, so by comparing these charts to existing charts, we can positively identify the herb.
This test is critical because some herbs look, smell and taste exactly alike, but one may cost 25 times more than another. Without FTIR resting, suppliers may be tempted to dilute the more expensive herb material with inexpensive “fillers.” For example, golden seal plants have been over harvested in recent years. And as a result, the supply is limited and the raw herb is very expensive. Some suppliers may be tempted to dilute their golden seal with other herbs which have similar chemical composition. The FTIR test makes it impossible for suppliers to get away with this.
This test measures the level of the key components in herb samples so we can maintain consistent levels of potency from one batch of product to the next.
High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC)
This extremely sensitive, computerized tool allows us to analyze the ingredients in a mixture. We place a dissolved sample of a mixture in the auto sampler unit and pump it through the analytical column. The mixture separates into different vitamin (or herb) components and the highly, sensitive detector measures the amount of each component in the mixture down to parts per million. By analyzing printed HPLC plots, we can verify proper ingredient ratios in a given mixture.
We use HPLC to examine the purity and potency of raw materials. For example, we use liquid chromatography to measure the parthenolide content in Feverfew.
FOREIGN MATERIALS TESTING
We burn a small sample of herb material in a special microwave furnace for one hour at 700 C. This burns away all of the organic (plant) matter. Any ash that remains after the burn is mineral content or dirt, and this is weighed. Every herb has characteristic mineral content and corresponding typical ash content. If, in testing, we find an ash content that is significantly higher than the typical ash content, we suspect the presence of dirt or some other foreign inorganic material. Dirt is a common problem, especially with herbs harvested from plant roots. If harvesters do not take the time to completely clean the dirt from the roots, NSP will reject their herbs.
Acid Insoluble testing
The inorganic ash left after ash testing is treated with hydrochloric acid and burned again. Any remaining ash is called acid insoluble ash (AIA). A high AIA value may indicate that the herb sample is contaminated with metal particles.
Some raw materials that come from eastern Europe may be contaminated with radiation from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster. The Gamma Counter will show us if the materials are contaminated and will help us keep out products free from radiation.
Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS)
By using Gas Chromatography, we can separate complex mixtures of compounds into individual components. A sample of a mixture is placed in the GC machine where it is heated and becomes a gas. As this gas travels through a tube in the machine, the individual elements in the mixture separate out and attach to a special coating in the tube. These separated elements enter a detection unit called a Mass Spectrometer which graphs the individual elements and allows us to identify the compound. By examining these graphs we can look for unwanted elements such as pesticides. This use of leading technology gives Nature’s Sunshine Products the quality advantage in ensuring the quality and purity of our natural health products.
Inductively Coupled Plasma Spectrometer (ICP)
The ICP has a flame that burns at 8727 C. We dissolve a sample of raw material or finished product inacid and then spray the solution into the middle of the flame. Inside the flame the different elements glow with their own unique colors. For example, calcium will glow with a different color than potassium. A highly sensitive meter graphs the brightness of each mineral in the flame and the graph tells us how much of each mineral is present in the sample down to parts per million. If there are any unwanted elements in a test of raw material, the shipment is rejected.
This testing device screens raw mineral samples for unwanted elements like arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury. The ICP is used to test finished products like Super Supplemental and Mega-Chel to ensure the mineral content in these products meets label claims.
NSPs MOST IMPORTANT QUALITY ASSURANCE TESTS
Nature’s Sunshine meticulously tests all of the raw materials we receive. Our quality assurance testing continues throughout the entire production process. In all, we use over 150 tests and procedures to ensure the quality of the raw materials we use and finished products we sell. NSP does 600 test on every batch of herbs before and they test after the product is made to make sure it is what it is supposed to be and what the lable says.
The following list represents a few of the most important rests we conduct.
- * Acid Insoluble testing
- * Ash testing
- * Bacteria testing
- * E. coli testing
- * Foreign Organic/Inorganic Matter
- * Gas Chromatography/Mass
- * Spectrometry (GC/MS)
- * Heavy Metals testing
- * High Performance Liquid
- * Chromatography (HPLC)
- * Inductively Coupled Plasma
- * Spectrometer (ICP)
- * Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR)
- * Microscopy
- * Moisture testing
- * Mold and Yeast testing
- * Organoleptic ID testing
- * Particle Size
- * pH testing
- * Potency testing
- * Salmonella testing
- * Tablet Disintegration/Dissolution
- * Thin Layer Chromatography
- * (TLC)
- * Total Bacteria testing
- * Viscosity testing
- * Volatile Oil
Every test we conduct, leads to better product quality, and excellence in product quality is what has put our products where they are today . . . at the top of the industry. You can be assured that with each new product we develop and manufacture, out commitment to excellence will continue.
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For more information Contact:
Karen Olerich, Herb Specialist
Phone: (719) 495-4930