When you start down the natural health pathway, you’re greeted with hundreds of thousands of products that claim to help you maintain an optimal level of overall health. It’s always great to have choices, and odds are, a large number of these products will have symbols or acronyms on the bottle to signify different things.
While some of these things may be common knowledge, there are others that might not be so easy to identify. We’ve put together a list to help you understand what the most common acronyms and symbols mean so you can choose the best products for your lifestyle and needs.
When it comes to acronyms used in the natural health world, the list can be quite long. Some of the most common ones you’ll find on product labels and in literature are as follows:
This is perhapsÂ one of the most common acronyms used not only on the labels of natural health supplements but in the creation of them. GMP refers to the Good Manufacturing Practice Regulations that are called for by the FDA under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. According to the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering:
GMP regulations require a quality approach to manufacturing, enabling companies to minimize or eliminate instances of contamination, mix-ups or errors …Â GMP regulations address issues including record-keeping, personnel qualifications, sanitation, cleanliness, equipment verification, process validation, and complaint handling.
There are also times when you may see the acronym “cGMP,” which refers to the same regulations. The lowercase “c” stands for “current,” so you’ll know that the manufacturer employs up-to-date machinery and technology when formulating and manufacturing their products.
NSF International is a third-party product testing, inspection andÂ certification organization that was founded in 1944 by the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan. Since 1944, NSF International has developed over 80 public health and safety standards (now known as American National Standards).
When you see this symbol (or see “NSF Certified”), you can rest assured that the product you’re buying complies with all of the standard requirements. According to the NSF International website:
NSF conducts periodic unannounced inspections and product testing to verify that the product continues to comply with the standard.
The NSF certification is a high level of reassurance that you’re getting products from manufacturers that are committed to high quality, safety and compliance with established regulations.
NSF for Sport
NSF International helps take care of the vast sporting world as well. The NSF Certified for Sport Program helps minimize the risk of athletes using supplements and other products that contain banned substances. It focuses on sports supplement manufacturing practices and sourcing processes.
The NSF Certified for Sport programÂ requires the following:
- Banned substance screening, which makes sure sports nutrition products are completely free of substances on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned substances list
- Label claim review, a step that reviews and certifies that the ingredients listed on the label are actually in the bottle
- Toxicology and contaminant reviews, which help to review the product formulation for accuracy and safety, as well as ensure the product contains no ingredients that aren’t listed on the bottle
- Facility audits, which are GMP audits that happen every year to ensure ongoing compliance, as well as to ensure that banned substances are not stored or used in the manufacturing facility
All major sporting organizations Â recognize the NSF Certified for Sport symbol and program, including the NFL, MLB, NHL, PGA, and LPGA, among others. If you’re an athlete and compete at any level, you’ll want to watch out for this acronym and symbol on the products you purchase.
Natural Healthy Concepts carries Klean Athlete products, which are NFS Certified for Sport.
This acronym is the abbreviation forÂ the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention,Â and signifies that the product is USP-verified. Founded in 1820, the USP has an impact on supplements in the USA, and around the world by setting standards that promote supplement quality and safety and helping to keep the public protected.
According the organization’s website, the acronym and symbol mean the following, regarding a product:
- It contains the ingredients listed on the label, and in the declared strengths and amounts
- It does not contain harmful levels of specified contaminants
- It is made according to FDA and USP Good Manufacturing Practices, using sanitary and well-controlled processes
National Organic Standards Board (NOSB)
The USDA Organic label and symbol are quite common on a number of natural supplements (and other items, such as food as well). The National Organic Standards Board (or NOSB for short) is a federal advisory board that includes 15 volunteers from the organic community. The NOSBÂ (which falls under the U.S. Department of Agriculture [USDA]) has the responsibility ofÂ “considering and making recommendations on a wide range of issues involving the production, handling and processing of organic products” (Source).
The USDA Organic seal has become an industry standard when it comes to organic products. The general organic principles established by the USDA encourage the preservation of the environment and the avoidance of most synthetic materials, including pesticides and antibiotics.
To be certified USDA Organic, a processor or manufacturer must meet these requirements:
- Preserve natural resources and biodiversity
- Only used approved materials
- Do not use genetically modified ingredients
- Receive annual onsite inspections
You’ll find a wide range of supplements that are Certified USDA Organic in our store!
International Fish Oil Standards Program (IFOS)
As with a large number of other supplements, fish oils are regularly tested as well. The International Fish Standards Program (IFOS) is provided by Nutrasource Diagnostics Inc., and is the only third-party testing and certification program for fish oil supplements.
According to the IFOS website:
As a voluntary, subscription-based service available to the entire fish oil supply chain, IFOS tests products by lot, using direct analysis, for active ingredients content, contaminants and freshness.
When you’re choosing a fish oil supplement, you want a high-quality product that is free of mercury and other heavy metal contaminants. Through IFOS certification, manufacturers can assure you that their products are of high quality and are good for you.
Natural Healthy Concepts carries many fish oil products from Carlson Labs, who produce a number of products that have received the highest rating from IFOS. Nordic Naturals products have also received certification from IFOS. You can browse them here.
If you’re interested in learning more about fish oil standards, take a look at this post.
Other Common Symbols
In addition to the acronyms and symbols above, there are other symbols you’ll likely find on a number of supplements as well. Let’s take a look at some of the most common ones.
Clearly, you don’t have to be a vegan or a vegetarian to care about animals. Cruelty-Free International is the world’s leading organization working toward ending animal experiments, and it is the owner of what is known as the Leaping Bunny Program.
Cruelty Free International states:
It’s the only globally recognised guarantee that a brand has made a genuine commitment to ending animal testing for its products. Certified companies must meet out rigorous criteria, including independent audits, before we let them display the leaping bunny logo … The Leaping Bunny is the only internationally-recognised certification for cosmetics, personal care and household product brands which are not tested on animals.
With nearly 80% of the world still allowing animal testing, this cute symbol lets you know which manufacturers you can trust to never test their products on animals.
Fair Trade Certified
Fair Trade is a movement that helps to ensure workers in economically disadvantaged countries are paid fairly for their work. Â Alaffia, a company who uses handcrafted, fair-trade shea butter and coconut in their products, offers the following explanation of what fair trade means through different definitions:
- Fair Trade Price:Â The base price for raw ingredients or goods is adjusted to be higher than open market price
- Price Premium:Â A percentage above base fair trade is paid into a separate account for development projects in producer communities
- Working Conditions:Â Fair trade operators must adhere to basic human and labor rights, including the ability to organize, no child labor, access to good healthcare and so on
- Environmental Stewardship:Â Fair trade organizations must minimize environmental impact
Sustainability is at the core of Fair Trade Certification, along with empowerment, economic development and social responsibility. When you choose products with the Fair Trade logo on the label, you’re choosing products from manufacturers who believe in the principles behind the movement.
This logo from the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO) “stands for the independent verification of quality, integrity, and purity of products. Products carrying the GF logo represent the unmatched reliability for meeting strict gluten-free standards” (Source).
Over the past several years, diagnoses of celiac disease and gluten intolerance have grown, and as a result, this logo is seen on more and more products. Understanding what gluten-free means can be tough, but this logo helps quite a bit.
The GFCO website states the following:
GFCO provides third-party certification. GFCO sets the highest standards in quality control and assurance for GF certification. Our program involves risk assessment, plant audits, equipment testing, and product testing both in the plant and at point of consumer purchase.
Products with this logo on the label are guaranteed to be free of gluten, wheat, barley, rye and other gluten-containing ingredients.
For further reading on the gluten-free diet and lifestyle, take a look at the following posts:
- What Does Gluten-Free Actually Mean, Anyway?
- The Parent’s Guide to Gluten-Free
- Nutrient Deficiencies & Gluten-Free Diets: What You Should Know
This logo indicates that the product is Kosher, meaning that the ingredients follow Jewish dietary law. The Torah specifies which animals may and may not be eaten, and in order for products to be certified Kosher, they must not contain any of the forbidden animals or animal products.
When you see this logo, you can rest assured that the product is Kosher and that the manufacturer complies with strict policies of kosher food laws, including purity and quality.
Under Jewish dietary law, “parve” is a term that is used when a product or food contains no meat or dairy ingredients, and is usually noted with a U in a circle.
Bluebonnet’s products are Kosher, and Natural Healthy Concepts carries other brands that are as well.
You can learn more aboutÂ Kosher certification and what Jewish dietary law entails, by visiting this site.
Whether you’re a vegetarian, full-on vegan, or just want a healthier product choice, the certified-vegan seal is something you’ll want to look for. The certification process is carried out on products from companies in Canada, the United States, and Australia, and must be submitted by the manufacturers themselves.
According to Vegan.org:
Companies that carry The Certified vegan Trademark on their products guarantee that each product is vegan, containing to animal ingredients or animal by-products, using no animal ingredients or by-product in the manufacturing process, and not being tested on animals.
When you see this logo, you’ll know that the product is absolutely free of animal and animal by-product ingredients, and is a great way to support your overall health and wellness.
Non-GMO Project Verified
The Non-GMO Project was founded to develop a standard meaning for non-GMO in the food industry throughout North America. The tagline for their website is “Working together to ensure the sustained availability of non-GMO food & products.”
Product verification is entirely voluntary, and occurs only after it is determined that there are absolutely NO genetically modified ingredients in a product, including corn and soy. According to the project’s website:
In order to comply with the Non-GMO project Standard, any participant with product(s) with high-risk inputs will be required to conduct GMO testing on samples of inputs and/or end products.
When a product bears this logo, you’ll know that it is absolutely GMO-free. We carry brands like MegaFood, BarleansÂ and Flora, among othersÂ â all of which offer products that are Non-GMO verified.
“Halal” is an Arabic word that means “lawful or permitted.” While this term is used in all facets of Muslim life, we’ll use it here to talk about natural supplements.
The Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America is the leading halal-certifying organization in the U.S., and according to their website, all foods are noted as halal, except for the following:
- Swine/pork and its by-products
- Animals not properly slaughtered according to Islamic method or dead before slaughtering
- Alcoholic drinks and intoxicants
- Carnivorous animals and birds of prey
- Blood and blood by-products
- Foods contaminated with any materials from the categories above
Ingredients and items that are perceived as questionable are referred to as “mashbooh,” and are noted as such, as the origin ingredient or item is not easily known. These ingredients include (but are not limited to) things like gelatin, flavors, and enzymes.
We carry a number of New Chapter products that contain halal-certified ingredients, such as gelatin. You can peruse their products here.
To learn more about Halal Certification, visit the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America website here.
If you’d like a print-out of these acronyms and symbols, Take a look below!
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