Seal of approval for animal supplements

Seal of approval for animal supplements

The NASC seeks to protect and enhance the integrity of the animal health product industry
Feb 01, 2011

In today's crowded and sometimes confusing marketplace, brand recognition is a major marketing advantage. Recognizing a familiar name provides a sense of safety and security—you know the company, its history and products. Many of the brand-name companies we immediately recognize have earned that status by consistently producing good-quality products and standing behind them.

Moreover, consumer organizations such as the Better Business Bureau and Good Housekeeping (with its seal of approval) evolved as means of providing the public with another method of evaluating companies and products with an eye on quality and safety. These organizations have consistently scored brand-name companies highly in their reviews, and, over time, these companies and products have earned our trust and consumer dollars.

The National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) was created because of widespread desire within the supplement industry to produce a safer, more ethical marketplace—similar to what the above-mentioned consumer watchdog groups have done for consumer products. Membership in the NASC and the ability to display the NASC seal on an animal health product requires the manufacturer to sign and adhere to a 13-page formal code-of-conduct contract. Following is a brief history of NASC, why it was established and what it does for both the supplement industry and animal owners.

A need identified

The animal supplement industry is an area that, until relatively recently, had little to no quality control. In the feed or tack store, in catalogs or online, today's horse owners are exposed to marketing messages about a tremendous array of supplement products. The makers of some of these products make all sorts of claims. Moreover, some supplements are made of questionable ingredients and often have no scientific evidence of efficacy or safety. It's often been difficult for owners and their veterinarians to make sense of all of these offerings, and the agencies that typically offer guidelines and standards for such products haven't always been helpful.

Why is there no official regulation of the animal supplement market? Because in 1994 these products fell through a bureaucratic crack. The human supplement market was rapidly growing through the late 1980s and early 1990s, paralleling where the animal supplement market now finds itself. Because of consumer demand and a need for some type of regulation and control of the expanding human supplement sector, the U.S. Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health Education Act (DSHEA) in 1994.

This legislation created a category of products called dietary supplements as a subset of food and allowed for their labeling and marketing for human use. Because the animal supplement market at that time was small in comparison, there was no provision in the DSHEA to allow products for companion animals to be similarly categorized. The only regulations that applied to animals classified products as either a food or a drug. Indeed, this categorization and distinction continues today.

But animal supplements have remained an emerging group of products that don't really fit into either category. Their current regulation falls to the Food and Drug Administration, Center for Veterinary Medicine (FDA-CVM), which works closely with state and federal agencies and tries to ensure that companies producing animal foods and drugs follow all relevant laws.

As the animal supplement market continued to increase over the years, authorities at the FDA-CVM became concerned that existing regulations were not sufficient or broad-based enough to cover the array of new products and the number of companies producing them. A notice was published by the FDA-CVM in May 2002 stating: "Dietary supplements for animals, such as vitamin and mineral products, have been marketed for many years. Most of these products include ingredients that are approved feed additives, generally recognized as safe substances or ingredients listed in the Official Publication of the Association of American Feed Control Officials.... Many products marked for animals contain ingredients that may be unsafe food additives or unapproved new animal drugs. CVM is concerned about these products, because we do not have scientific data to show they are safe or even contain the ingredients listed on the label."

By the late 1990s, it was clear the problem was coming to a head, and the existing agencies and regulations were not going to be able to safely, effectively and fairly control the animal supplement industry.