I am continually asked why I get so upset when I hear interviews on probiotics or when I see probiotic products on the shelf or advertised on the internet. I get upset because virtually all the individuals who claim to have knowledge of probiotics are ignorant of the probiotic labeling standard that was passed by the entire membership of the National Nutritional Foods Association (which is now the Natural Products Association) in 1989 and further submitted to be read into congressional record in 1995 as our industry's fiduciary promise to self-regulate.
Unfortunately, our industry chooses to ignore the promise we made to self-regulate to Congress and the American people. Industry members with varying financial interests imploded the NNFA because they tried and failed to require manufacturers to self-regulate and implement the TruLabel Program. The TruLabel Program was a fair and balanced program designed to keep manufacturers honest and to assure our health food consumer that the products sold in the industry complied with a published standard.
I am deeply concerned that no one wants to bother with standards or make proper representations to the general public. In fact, the probiotic labeling standards put the burden of proof on the actual manufacturer of the probiotic microorganisms and not just the so-called manufacturer selling the finished product.
I have devoted my life to educating the public on proper probiotic supplementation. We cannot make progress unless we actually sell consumers properly labeled probiotic products that contain the ingredients listed on the label. Is that too much to ask?
Passing these standards was no easy effort. Many members of the NNFA sat in these probiotic standards meetings for years hashing out every minute detail. Some of us even got sued for our efforts and never received so much as a simple thank you.
I ask each of you, what responsibility do we have to our industry and ourselves if we cannot be honest about the products we sell? In the 1990s, when the NNFA was ready to launch the TruLabel Program for all the members, they tested every supplement on the health food store shelf and found that 80% did not meet their label declaration. Is honesty bad for the health food industry? I leave the answer up to each and every one of you because we are ultimately responsible for virtues we embrace and live by.
Natren, Inc. President & Founder
Author, Researcher, and Educator