You can’t go it alone—protecting your brand takes everyone working together!

The quality of the products under your brand is one of the most critical aspects of business success and vendor/supplier qualification is one of the most important steps in that process. In fact, this step is required in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 111.75. Furthermore, to avoid warning letters, build confidence and maintain a positive reputation in the marketplace, safe and tested ingredients are a must.

CFR 111.75 outlines a very detailed process to follow. One of the first steps in establishing the reliability of the supplier’s certificate of analysis (CoA) is through confirmation of the supplier’s test results or examinations. This can be accomplished by setting the specifications and then testing using one or more methods for identity, purity, strength and composition of the component or ingredient. Also required by CFR 111.75 (c)(1), is testing for limits of contamination that would lead to adulteration of the finished product. This testing verifies that the vendor shows identity and acceptable levels of active ingredient markers. It also ensures that there is no microbial contamination, heavy metals, pesticide residue or other harmful contaminates.

Another key to supplier qualification is the supplier audit, which provides valuable information about the quality management system of the supplier. It also shows how the material is tested and how the vendor will ensure specification compliance from batch to batch, along with many other aspects of the company’s processes. By combining testing with supplier audits, a brand can consistently monitor the supplier and build confidence in its ability to produce high-quality ingredients. Once the supplier has been qualified, then reduced testing might be an option.

One FDA response letter (Addressed to Heron Botanicals Inc. on May 25, 2015) prompted the company to defend its position that it makes no claims to the amount of “active ingredients” in its finished product. As such, the company argued that testing was not needed for the “active ingredients” in the raw material. The FDA disagreed with this response because the company lists a 70 percent extract material on its label. Without testing the raw material, the company was unable to prove it started out with a 70 percent extract.

If this company had established a supplier qualification and showed testing results for the raw material over several lots to prove it met label claims repeatedly, then it may have been able to justify not testing the raw material “active ingredient” for this product. In this instance, the documented supplier qualification may have been all that was needed to avoid a warning letter.

Vendor qualification, although an often under-utilized process, is really the key to safe and high-quality ingredients. By testing raw materials and qualifying suppliers, this will strengthen the quality of your products and help protect your brand. Ultimately, It takes everyone working together to ensure the quality of the supply chain—and that definitely should be the main goal of any manufacturer. Are you doing your part to avoid FDA warning letters and produce quality products by working with a quality, certified and accredited testing lab? If not, SORA Labs can be your partner in quality!

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