Because of the public's increasing demand for animal supplements and the government's inability to find a place to fit these
products into current legislation, the NASC came into existence in 2001. The NASC council is a nonprofit trade organization
whose board is composed of executives from about 20 companies in the animal health field.
"It's better to help shape your own destiny than to have it defined for you," says William Bookout, NASC president, when explaining
the organization's formation. "The individuals who started the council knew the animal supplement industry, understood the
challenges facing companies producing these products and wanted to try to produce a more fair and ethical marketplace."
NASC's goals include finding ways to allow responsible companies to provide products to animal owners and to "evaluate, define
and implement regulations that are fair, reasonable and nationally consistent."
Kenneth Kopp, DVM, a technical service veterinarian for Arenus, a company that produces animal nutritional supplements and
a founding member of the council, notes, "The NASC is not a perfect solution. If the government were regulating the industry,
it might not be perfect either. And though we'd love the FDA or USDA to step in and take this over, they're not going to do
it. We simply fall into a gray zone."
Bookout says the NASC immediately provided help to consumers at its inception and continues to help by providing a pathway
for the introduction of legislation into Congress that eventually will address animal supplements specifically.
As noted, members can display the NASC seal on a product if they adhere to a code-of-conduct contract. These companies must
undergo an onsite, independent audit and must maintain strict compliance in areas including labeling claims, adverse product
reporting, random product testing, quality control and risk management. NASC guidelines require that compliant companies have
product claims related to supporting the normal health, structure and function of the animal only.
Bookout cautions consumers, "If a product [supplement] mentions disease, arthritis, cancer, dermatitis or claims that it will
cure or treat a disease, then the company responsible for that product is breaking the law." He also advises horse owners
to never buy a product that doesn't contain a lot number on the container. "Without the most basic of information, there's
no traceability and no way of judging quality standards," he says, echoing the truism: If it sounds too good to be true, it
probably is—and don't buy it.
Adverse-event reporting is a particularly important NASC requirement, so problems with products (e.g., unwanted side effects,
reactions) can be tracked and addressed in an open forum that fosters trust and responsibility. Companies are re-audited every
two years to maintain membership, and, according to Kopp, "The standards the NASC sets and the auditing and review process
are rigorous and costly."
Violators of the code of conduct are subject to fines, and companies are (and have been) expelled from the organization. More
than 100 companies producing about 6,000 products currently belong to the NASC, and they represent 90 percent of the animal
supplement market, which is heavily weighted toward equine and canine products.
"Arenus is an ethical company trying to do business in an often unethical marketplace," says Kopp. "And we welcome the tough
standards set by the NASC as a means of providing better industry standards and more consumer confidence."
Some companies that produce quality equine supplements do not belong to the NASC, however. Many of these companies produce
products that either are much closer to foods or to drugs, and they cite the numerous state and federal agencies that already
regulate them. Trying to be members in all the various alliances and organizations can be difficult for smaller companies
that often have to pick and choose based on the particular products they produce. That these companies are forced into this
type of decision-making process is further proof of the need for broader-based, more uniform legislation designed to regulate
the animal supplement market.
As the number of animal nutritional and supplement products continues to grow, this need will become even more critical. Until
that time, the NASC will serve as an industry watchdog of sorts, and its seal will hopefully provide horse owners with an
additional means of evaluating products. "I feel confident that when people see the NASC seal, they can have a good level
of trust in the product that carries it," says Kopp.
They can also be assured that companies belonging to the NASC have committed to improving their industry for the good of the
consumer, for business (since educated consumers are more likely to select and use better products)—and ultimately for the
benefit of animals.
Dr. Marcella is an equine practitioner in Canton, Ga.