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Study: Safety and quality are retailers responsibility

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. Busy consumers with no time for in-depth product research are increasingly relying on retailers to screen out potentially unsafe and low-quality products, according to a new study from global public health organization NSF International. The study finds 97% of Americans believe it is important for retailers to visit and inspect manufacturing facilities that produce dietary supplements, personal care products and over-the-counter (O-T-C) drugs. Nearly 85% of survey respondents said they expect retailers to test supplements and other health and wellness products for safety.

“We’re seeing a trend across categories in the health and wellness sector – consumers increasingly want retailers to stand behind the products they sell,” said David Trosin, managing director of Health Sciences Certification at NSF International. “According to this research, consumers not only expect retailers to test products for safety, they want them to inspect manufacturing facilities for compliance with current good manufacturing practices.”

The online survey conducted in July 2021 on behalf of NSF International polled a representative sample of 1,000 Americans about their attitudes and behaviors related to dietary supplements, personal care products and O-T-C drugs. The margin of error for the study is +/-3.1% at a 95% confidence level.

Under U.S. federal regulations, manufacturers of dietary supplements and O-T-C drugs are required to comply with current good manufacturing practices (GMPs), but they are not required to provide proof of GMP compliance before shipping products. Recently, however, several major retailers and online shopping platforms have begun requiring brands and manufacturers to provide proof of GMP compliance and other quality assurance requirements. The new study suggests Americans want retailers to go beyond what’s required by law and conduct their own due diligence audits of manufacturing facilities.

“Failure to comply with GMPs can lead to a host of quality and safety issues. You can get cross contamination of products, mislabeled products, inaccurate formulations and generally unhygienic conditions,” Trosin said. “Everyone in the industry understands the importance of good manufacturing practices and now it’s clear consumers are concerned about this too.”

According to the survey, 95% of consumers have concerns about the quality and safety of dietary supplements, personal care products and O-T-C drugs. When asked what would make them trust these products more, 62% said “independent certification from a health and safety organization” and 61% said “made in a facility that has been inspected for good manufacturing practices.” About 44% said “lab testing by the retailer” would help build their trust in supplements and personal care products. Only 14% said “advertising on TV” helps build their trust in products. “Social media comments” and “celebrity endorsements” were identified as building trust by just 17% of consumers.

Other highlights from the survey include:

  • While consumers are concerned about product safety and quality, only 48% said they research dietary supplement product claims themselves and just 39% said they research personal care product and O-T-C product claims.
  • Almost half of Americans (47%) are more likely to research a Hollywood movie than the claims on supplements and other health and wellness products
  • 17% of consumers said they are more likely to read the Facebook terms and conditions than the ingredient labels of supplements, personal care products and OTCs
  • 56% of consumers said the COVID-19 pandemic made them more concerned about the safety of supplements, personal care products and O-T-C drugs
  • While 85% of consumers want retailers to test the health and wellness products they sell, only 32% think retailers actually do this.
  • 62% of consumers believe national chain stores/pharmacies are “most likely to sell the highest-quality” health and wellness products. Just 28% said online sellers and 17% said fitness centers are “most likely to sell the highest-quality” products.

According to the survey, the consumers most likely to demand laboratory testing of supplements, personal care products and O-T-Cs are consumers with children, consumers in urban areas, consumers 23 to 35 years old, and men making over $90,000 per year.

The survey data points to increasing demand for independent product testing and GMP auditing. “We envision a future when most major retailers will require brands to show proof of product quality in some form or another, whether through independent assurance of GMP compliance, independent laboratory testing of products or both,” Trosin said.


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