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The Benefits Of Certification

Albion Minerals®

While attaining certifications may take a considerable investment, the effort is worthwhile with the opportunities they afford companies.

In any type of business, companies do whatever they can to separate from the pack and stand out from the crowd. For suppliers, attaining certifications is one way to show manufacturers as well as consumers that they have taken the steps to confirm that a product and/or a facility has met the requirements of a specific criterion.

In the dietary supplement industry, certifications are more important than ever, as the safety and purity of supplements and their ingredients are often questioned. “Certifications are critical to upholding the reputation of the industry. They separate the companies who are committed to high-quality sourcing and processing from those who are not,” said George Pontiakos, president and CEO of California-based BI Nutraceuticals. “Multiple certifications are difficult to simultaneously maintain since each certification has differing requirements, but in doing so it distinguishes the companies with superior infrastructures and extensive industry knowledge. Certifications instill confidence and trust in not only finished product manufacturers, but the end consumer as well; they are now becoming a requirement, not just an advantage.” 

“We operate in a regulated market. Certifications are a confirmation, usually provided by an external review, that a product and/or organization are following specific criteria and are complying with the rules,” added Christian Artaria, marketing director of Indena in Milan, Italy. “Certifications are a way to ease business audits and product reviews, and are often market driven. As the regulatory environment tightens and consumer demands increase, companies must comply in order to remain relevant.” 

There are a plethora of certifications available to companies. According to Pontiakos, some certifications are general industry standards and some are practical when considering a company’s product portfolio. Then there are others that may differentiate a company from its competitors, in addition to helping to better serve current customers, while creating opportunities with new customers.

Kosher, Halal & Organic 

When certified kosher or halal, a product is upholding the religious standards of the Jewish and Muslim faiths, respectively. In addition, the appeal and demand of kosher and halal certified products has risen, as many consider them to be held to the highest quality standards. While there are a number of similarities between kosher and halal requirements, there are differences as well. According to the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA), some of those differences include:

• Islam prohibits all intoxicants, including alcohols, liquors and wines, whereas Judaism regards alcohol and wines as kosher. Hence kosher foods may contain alcohol. If they do, they are considered haram (forbidden) in Islam.

• Many Jews consider gelatin kosher regardless of its source of origin. For Muslims, if gelatin is prepared from swine, it is haram.

The halal and kosher certifications convey to consumers that a particular product conforms to certain material sourcing and manufacturing practices suitable for the choices they make about their life and health. “The halal and kosher certification for our ingredients confirm that Indena extracts are acknowledged worldwide as ingredients that meet the highest standards in the food market,” said Artaria. “These certifications also show respect for the different cultures and specific needs of all customers and their consumers worldwide.” 

While not certified for religious reasons, attaining an organic certification is becoming the standard for companies along with halal and kosher certifications. According to Prescott Bergh, senior sales manager for Wisconsin-based Ciranda, Inc., certifications are critical to the integrity of the organic food sector as they provide lot traceability through the supply chain back to the farm. “They provide the most rigorous protocols out there to ensure that organic foods on retail shelves meet the standards of the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) National Organic Program (NOP) as well as the expectations of the consumer,” he explained.

Bergh noted that Ciranda chose to be certified organic because it believes that organic foods are a healthier choice for consumers and the environment. In addition to the company’s organic certification, it has non-GMO (genetically modified organism), fair trade and kosher certifications. “Organic foods are non-GMO by definition,” Bergh said. “We strongly support the fair trade marketplace to bring economic and social benefits to underprivileged farmers in developing countries. Kosher certification is [also] required by many of our clients.” 

And in 2013, Ciranda became the first to offer 100 percent certified sustainable Identity Preserved (IP) Organic palm oil in the United States following its recent certification by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The RSPO-IP certification guarantees the traceability of each lot of palm oil back to the field of origin and is the most stringent of the four certification levels offered by the RSPO, according to Bergh.

Gluten-Free & SQF 

Those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivities are rapidly growing the demand for gluten-free products. The U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced a new regulation defining the term “gluten-free” for voluntary food labeling. The new federal definition standardizes the meaning Of gluten-free claims across the food industry. It requires that, in order to use the term “gluten-free” on its label, a food must meet all of the requirements of the definition, including that the food must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten. The rule also requires foods with the claims “no gluten,” “free of gluten” and “without gluten” to meet the definition for “gluten-free.” 

While FDA’s regulation will provide a uniform standard definition of what is considered “gluten-free,” third-party certifiers must make sure that their certification requirements are in line with the FDA’s. Michigan-based NSF International, an international and independent public health and safety organization that ensures a triple-verified gluten-free label, recently confirmed that its science-based Gluten-Free Certification Program meets the new FDA regulation.

In August 30, 2012, BI Nutraceuticals received Gluten-Free Certification for its Long Beach, CA facility through NSF International. “BI is responding to a profound growth within the industry for certified gluten-free products, and now the Gluten-Free Certification brings an added level of trust and transparency to a new demand in the market,” said Randy Kreinbrink, the company’s director of marketing in a press release.

In addition to its gluten-free certification, BI Nutraceuticals is certified kosher, halal and SQF (Safe Quality Food). According to Pontiakos, the SQF certification is the most involved of all the certifications that the company has, as it guarantees that BI Nutraceuticals has food safety and quality management systems in place that adhere to both domestic and international food safety policies. “BI was the first nutraceutical raw material supplier to attain SQF certification back in 2011,” he said. “It assures our customers that the ingredients they are receiving have been produced, processed, prepared and handled according to the highest possible food safety and quality standards.” 


International regulations can differ from those in the U.S., so companies that do business overseas may want to look into the certification process for the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) or the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). GFSI was established to ensure confidence in the delivery of safer food to consumers, while continuing to improve food safety throughout the supply chain. These global standards address food, packaging, packaging materials, storage and distribution for primary producers, manufacturers and distributors.

“We have 15 factories all over the world. All our sites producing and shipping ingredients are either GFSI certified (FSSC 22000, BRC, IFS) and/or NSF certified for dietary supplements,” said Nicolas Souchon, global quality assurance director for the French company Naturex Inc., who also has kosher, halal and organic certifications.

According to Souchon, the company has implemented systematic, complete, high standards for food safety management systems and GMPs (good manufacturing practices) through these thirdparty recognitions. In combination with the food safety and GMP certifications, Naturex’s production sites also follow the ISO management standards (ISO 9001, ISO 14001, OHSAS 18001).

The world’s largest developer of voluntary international standards, ISO ensures that products and services are safe, reliable and of good quality. ISO has developed more than 19,500 international standards that cover just about every aspect of technology in business. For instance, ISO 14001 was developed to provide a management system to help organizations reduce their environmental impact. The standard provides the framework for organizations to demonstrate their environmental commitment by reducing harmful effects on the environment and providing evidence of continual improvement of environmental management.

“ISO14001 certifies Indena’s compliance to standards for environmental management systems. These standards apply to business practices aimed at reducing the environmental footprint by decreasing pollution and waste,” said Artaria, who noted that the company is also certified ECOCERT, kosher, halal and CEP (Certified Environmental Professional), among others. “This certification guarantees that our manufacturing plants have an adequate management system to control the environmental impact and continually improve the environmental performance of their activities in a systematic, effective and sustainable way.” 

The Process 

Each certification has its own step-bystep process. However, BI Nutraceuticals’ Pontiakos noted that the general steps of obtaining a majority of certifications are similar as there are requirements that apply to all aspects of the business. These requirements are evaluated during an audit, and if the company passes the evaluation, a certificate is issued. “The differing purposes of the certification change the requirements and scope of the audit,” he explained.

Because the certification process can be complex, companies may have an inhouse team dedicated to the process, or it can enlist a consultant to aid them in getting through the steps successfully. Time and a monetary investment are also factors in the process, depending on the requirements of the certification.

“Depending on the scope of the audit, some certifications only need a week of preparatory work, while others may take up to a year,” said Pontiakos. “For instance, simple certifications such as kosher and halal are not as time consuming in comparison to the SQF certification. The monetary investment depends on several factors: price of the certification itself, changes needed for the facility to be compliant, personnel to make those changes, etc.” 

And after a certificate is issued, the company needs to uphold its standards. According to Naturex’s Souchon, the most difficult aspect is to maintain quality at the highest level over time, as the company is always improving and updating its systems and looking for new ways to offer even greater assurance to its customers. “Quality is a daily and continuous process,” he said.

Speaking From Experience 

While at times the certification process may seem tedious, the benefits make it worthwhile in the end—affecting business both domestically and internationally. According to Pontiakos, the certifications have given the company opportunities and recognition around the world that would have either taken longer to achieve or not have even been probable.

“Certification enables manufacturers to focus their food safety efforts on scientific and technical advances, and their audit resources on improvement rather than compliance,” added Souchon. “Moreover, GFSI certifications, as a worldwide certification scheme for food safety, are recognized by many of our customers and sometimes help eliminate the need for additional approval audits, saving time for both Naturex and our customers.” 

Going forward, Pontiakos noted that BI Nutraceuticals’ No. 1 goal has been and will always be to deliver safe, highquality products and outstanding services to its customers. “Obtaining our multiple certifications has been extremely advantageous in achieving this goal,” he said. “As the industry changes, we hope to expand our portfolio of certifications as they become more necessary in the competitive global marketplace.” 

And when asked what companies looking to attain certifications should keep in mind, Pontiakos offered this advice: “As with any investment, a company must do their research to weigh the costs and benefits of pursuing a certification. It is not a simple application process; it requires capital, experienced personnel, time and modifications to existing procedures. You must know exactly what the certificate entails.

“Prior to pursuing any certifications, ensure that the company not only has GMPs in place, but that they are enforced. This point cannot be overstated,” he concluded. “Maintaining proper cleanliness and orderliness for any facility is a must, and one that should not be taken lightly. Lastly, ensure the company has a procedure for every major process involved and those responsible for undertaking those tasks are properly trained.”

First-Time Education on Halal Dietary Needs at FNCE

Recently, requests for halal meals in schools, colleges and hospitals have increased, reflecting the needs of American Muslim consumers. To that end, on October 20, 2013, Asma Ahad, the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America’s (IFANCA) director of halal development, discussed halal dietary needs at the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE).

The session, titled “Mythbusters: The Facts All Rds and DTRs Need to Know About Halal and Kosher Dietary Markets,” was the first time an education session on halal dietary information was offered at FNCE.

“Eight to nine million American Muslims form the majority of halal consumers in the United States,” said Ahad. “Our hope is to be able to convey the ease with which dietitians can provide halal nutrition in either clinical, foodservice or community based settings.” 

According to IFANCA Executive Director Roger Othman, attendees learned how to provide for the needs of customers requiring a halal diet. There was also great interest from foodservice providers who focused on supply chain advice and implementing standard operating procedures to produce halal offerings. In addition, attendees left the session with an understanding of what halal means, how to identify halal-certified products, the opportunity to address halal needs in their area of operation, as well as the ease and cost effectiveness of providing a halal offering.

IFANCA is committed to increasing halal education for registered dietitians and foodservice professionals. Last year, IFANCA participated in a dietetics webinar called “A Farm to Fridge Journey into the World of Halal.” In 2011, IFANCA published the world’s first comprehensive Halal Foodservice Kit, which has a separate guidelines section for food and nutrition professionals. The kit is available for free at www.ifanca.org.

Extra! Extra!

Visit www.niemagazine.com to read about American Key Food Products’ strategic move for its food ingredients to AIB certified warehouses.

Albion Minerals®