Quality Update: A New Look at the EQP
The Emerson Quality ProgramSM (EQP) has been a proud part of Emerson Ecologics since it launched in 2009. At its foundation, the EQP® was devised to provide practitioners with a quick and easy way to discern quality brands.
While the EQP® has undergone renovations over the years, the program still offers this, and provides a visible seal when shopping on the Emerson website. Today, in an environment where supplement quality is at the forefront, we are dedicated to making the program even more meaningful and relevant to practitioners—saving you time and helping you improve your clinical outcomes.
Each of the products in the Emerson Ecologics portfolio, meets the minimum quality hurdle of cGMP compliance. Additionally, as part of our audit process for all Silver and Gold EQP® partners, we conduct lot-specific reviews of their processes. We review all records for a lot, including the ingredients’ documentation consisting of the certificate of analysis and lab test results. Then, we send that product off to our own qualified labs to independently test and make sure we get the same results. This is a spot check, to test a parameter of quality and make sure that we’re seeing what we expect. If we do, then the company moves on to the on-site audit.
Even after a brand is accepted as an EQP® partner, the program requires that we test their products at a minimum of twice per year. We feel this is a powerful way to know and understand that the products we ship to you and to feel confident that we’re bringing you the best available.
What do we test for?
We send the finished product to our labs to test for one of many parameters, most commonly including heavy metals, solvents, pesticides and herbicides, and microbiological contaminants. More recently, we have begun to do more specific speciation of plants (making sure herbs aren’t diluted or “cut” with less effective, cheaper forms) and other specific contaminants (like triclosan, a disinfectant in some poor quality grapefruit seed extract products). We also test potency, to determine that the dose on the label matches what we find in the serving provided as well as ingredient identity to make sure a product has the right form of each ingredient stated.
What happens if a product fails?
First of all, it is essential to set the stage by saying that testing finished products, meaning the capsules in your bottle, is challenging. Much of the testing conducted on products is done earlier on in the process, before ingredients are mixed and packaged into a finished good. For good reason too! When a single ingredient is blended into a matrix with other ingredients, including inactive ingredients, it can be much more difficult to interpret results.
When a product fails to meet specifications, we first report this to the manufacturer, as testing finished products can be tricky. In 2011, Consumer Labs incorrectly published that one of Nordic Naturals’ top selling fish oils tested rancid1, when in fact, the lemon flavoring added to the finished product makes fish oil test falsely positive. And we have had an instance where one lab made a calculation error, reported to us as a failed result, but the brand then noted the error, which the lab later confirmed. We value our partner brands—we would never want to penalize them without first verifying our result.
The brand can choose to have the product retested (for example, under a different method which may be more appropriate for their specific finished product). If the product doesn’t pass, then it is suspended. In cases where products fail testing, the brand is subject to removal from the EQP® until they can validate that the problem has been remedied.
In addition to our own testing, we also monitor reports of testing completed externally. We take any notification from regulatory agencies very seriously, including the FDA. In 2015, even the Attorney General of New York was conducting tests on over the counter dietary supplements available at retail locations. We use these reports to inform our testing program and we reach out to brands to get more information on those products named.
While testing finished products can be a complicated process, it is one of the tools that we use coupled with site visits, quality report submissions, and open dialogues with our supplier partners to help ensure that you our customers have the most up to date information on quality. If you have any questions about quality or our EQP®, please reach out to our Medical Education team at (800) 654-4432. We are here to help answer your questions and ensure that you find products that meet your exacting standards.
By Jaclyn Chasse, ND