Often, supplements and vitamins are marked with the stamp “USP verified.” This can be an important marker of quality and safety -- but what is USP, and what does their stamp of approval actually mean for consumers?
USP is short for the United States Pharmacopeial Convention, a non-profit scientific organization that sets national standards for product identity, strength, and purity of consumable goods from foods to supplements and some medications. The USP mark on supplements is recognized by most clinical research experts as being the widest accepted standard for supplements. When a product is USP verified, you can be sure that it has passed the following criteria:
The product contains exactly the ingredients listed on the label, in the quantities and potencies stated. While this sounds like it should be a given when you purchase a consumable product, tests have found the contents of some supplements to be incongruent with their labels. Some supplement companies will present products that contain different amounts of the active or key ingredients than they claim, or that are loaded with higher quantities of “filler” ingredients than are specified on the label.
Supplements of the past contained some level of heavy metals, microbes, and even pesticides. These kinds of contaminants can pose serious health risks at specific levels, and the USP verifies only products that do not contain harmful levels of these substances.
USP verification also includes testing to ensure that substances will break down and release their active ingredients in the appropriate time. If ingredients aren’t able to be broken down and processed by the body quickly, the supplements themselves are not able to be absorbed and used by the body effectively. The USP tests products against nationally agreed-upon performance standards to verify the break-down time.
FDA Manufacturing Guidelines
Products approved by the USP are made according to FDA Good Manufacturing Practices. These are a set of guidelines for consumable products that ensure sanitary and well-controlled procedures. This provides assurance that the product consumers receive has been manufactured safely, and the entire manufacturing process is well documented and closely monitored. This has the added assurance of supplements being manufactured consistently between batches, hopefully ensuring consistent quality.
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