Quality begins in selection, where only the finest herbs and raw materials
are obtained. The company’s global sourcing of raw materials ensures that the
highest quality products are chosen from each harvest season. After being
harvested, these materials are shipped to the manufacturing facility, where they
are subjected to a series of in-depth quality control tests to ensure purity,
potency and cleanliness. Nature's Sunshine meticulously tests all of the raw
materials we receive. Our QA testing continues throughout the entire production
process. In all, we use more than 300 tests and procedures to ensure the quality
of the raw materials we use and the finished products we sell.
Once a product has been produced, it undergoes a battery of tests to assure
consistency, quality and potency. The finished product is audited by inspectors
for bulk weight, liquid volume, bottle count, bottle sealing and legible lot
number. Samples are then given to the QA labs so scientists can complete testing
according to finished product specifications. After all tests are completed and
the product has passed the inspections, Quality Assurance will release the
product. The batch record and a sample of the finished product are retained for
future reference. If a customer has a question about a product, QA can refer to
the retention sample of the lot in question.
Every test we conduct leads to better product quality, and excellence in
product quality is what has put our products where they are today--at the top of
the industry. You can be assured that with each new product we develop and
manufacture, our commitment to excellence will continue. The following
represents a few of the important tests we conduct:
Each lot of tablets or capsules produced at NSP must pass the test for
disintegration. Tablets and capsules are tested in accordance with the United
States Pharmacopoeia. The tablets or capsules are placed in water maintained at
37° C, and the motion of the disintegration apparatus simulates the passage of
a tablet or capsule through the body. The time required for each tablet and
capsule to break down is recorded, and all tablets and capsules must dissolve
within 30 minutes to be accepted by NSP Quality Assurance.
This test mimics the body’s digestive system and shows the amount of product
that is available for use by the body over time. We use this equipment to test
our time-release products such as T/R Vitamin C, T/R Valerian and T/R St. John’s
Wort. The Dissolution System controls critical environmental parameters for the
sample being tested, including temperature, stir rate, sampling time and
sampling volume. This close control allows for the highest possible accuracy in
testing of our time-release products. Collected samples are analyzed using
extremely sensitive analytical instrumentation such as HPLC or UV-Vis analysis.
These instruments show the rate at which the compound is released.
We burn a small sample of herb material in a special microwave furnace for one
hour at 700° C. This burns away all of the organic (plant) matter. Any ash that
remains after the burn is mineral content or dirt, which is subsequently
weighed. Every herb has a characteristic mineral content and a corresponding
typical ash content. If, in testing, we find an ash content that is
significantly higher than the typical ash content, we suspect the presence of
dirt or some other foreign inorganic material. Dirt is a common problem,
especially with herbs harvested from plant roots. If harvesters do not take the
time to completely clean the dirt from the roots, NSP rejects their herbs.
Acid Insoluble testing
The inorganic ash left after ash testing is treated with hydrochloric acid and
burned again. Any remaining ash is called acid-insoluble ash (AIA). A high AIA
value may indicate that the herb sample is contaminated with metal particles.
High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC)
This extremely sensitive computerized instrumentation allows us to analyze the
ingredients of a mixture. The instrument uses advanced analytical techniques to
separate, identify and quantify individual components. Vitamins and active
constituents in herbs are tested on the HPLC. These components are measured in
all finished products to verify that each lot meets the amount claimed on the
label. We also use HPLC to examine the purity and potency of raw materials,
particularly herbs that have active compounds. For example, the parthenolide
content in feverfew and the ephedra content in ma huang must meet specifications
before these materials can receive QA approval.
Organoleptic ID testing
This is usually the first step in the identification of herb samples coming into
the Quality Assurance testing area. This analysis includes testing with the
senses (checking the taste, odor, color and appearance of the raw herb
material). Since herbs are natural products, their characteristics may vary.
However, they must fall within a specified range.
By testing for and counting the bacteria on machinery, equipment and personnel
in the production area, we can evaluate the standard hygiene level and the
efficiency of our cleaning procedures. By checking the bacteria counts in the
production areas, we ensure that our products will not become contaminated in
the manufacturing plant. NSP utilizes two different methods to test for
bacteria: swabbing methods and a device called a bactometer, which uses advanced
computer technology to test for the presence of bacteria in raw materials,
liquids and finished products. The bactometer is the testing machine of choice.
It detects the growth of organisms by the change of electronic signals passed
through the testing modules containing suspect bacteria. An increase in
conductance in the sample indicates growth of organisms, and changes in the
electronic signals are used to count the amount of organisms present. Nature’s
Sunshine was the first company in the industry to utilize this exciting
technology. In addition to the tests mentioned below, tests are also conducted
for the presence of coliforms, pseudomonas and Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.
Total Bacteria testing
To use the bactometer to determine the number of microbes that might be present,
we take a total plate count. We test a sample of raw material and determine the
amount of aerobic microbe contamination in the sample. We then compare this
count to our stringent allowable spec levels. If any raw material counts are
higher than allowable levels, the lot is rejected and returned to the vendor.
Finished products are also audited to ensure that they meet NSP quality
Mold and Yeast testing
We regularly perform yeast and mold counts using the bactometer. Its special
modules contain the elements a mold or yeast would need to sustain life if it
were present. When the organism grows, it is detected on the bactometer.
E. coli testing
The dangers of Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria are well-known. In large
enough quantities, these bacteria can be fatal. NSP tests raw materials for the
presence of E. coli using specially designed E. coli count plates that contain
an indicator that turns the bacteria blue. This allows for visual identification
of the bacteria and, of course, rejection of that particular lot of raw
Salmonella bacteria are responsible for many food poisoning cases. NSP tests for
salmonella bacteria in herb raw materials and products using what is called a
1-2 test. This test allows us to obtain results much more quickly than standard