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CRN begins testing its Supplement Online Wellness Library


WASHINGTON — As part of an initiative to provide a deeper look across the VMS products the dietary supplement industry are bringing to market, nine companies are voluntarily beta-testing the Council for Responsible Nutrition's dietary supplement product registry, which will be branded as the Supplement Online Wellness Library (Supplement OWL).

The nine companies, which includes GNC, NBTY and Pharmavite,  will be able to provide feedback on the process of entering new product information and to evaluate the various search capabilities and functionalities of the program before its anticipated public launch in October at CRN's annual meeting "The Conference."

“The product registry is a potential game-changer for our industry and we’ve been grateful to see the enormous amount of support from so many in the industry, including both member companies and non-member companies, as well as some major retailers who have expressed strong interest in how it might eventually help them decide what to put on their shelves," stated Steve Mister, president and CEO CRN.

Mister has spent the summer on a supplement road show of sorts sharing with retailers how this library may better inform their management of VMS in their stores. "It is a tremendous opportunity for retail," he told Drug Store News. And it's not only because this registry challenges industry to have greater transparency, he said. "We think this registry gives them an opportunity to not only see into the industry themselves [but] also it's an opportunity they can promote to their customer. We know retailers are very concerned about their image in the dietary supplement space," Mister said, particularly after the New York Attorney General's Office targeted retailers last year as part of its investigation into certain herbal supplements.

CRN has been discussing the project with the Food and Drug Administration as well, Mister said. "We have continued a dialogue with FDA as our hope is the Supplement OWL will ultimately provide the agency with an additional regulatory tool," he said. "We’ve gotten substantive input from our working group every step of the way, and the beta-testing will provide an additional layer of feedback to help ensure this registry is manageable for all companies who want to raise the bar for our industry. We’re grateful for the insights of the working group and for those companies who have volunteered to take the Supplement OWL for a test drive.”

As previously announced, CRN and UL, a global independent safety science company, are working in partnership on the project, with CRN providing the initial funding, an industry working group providing feedback and UL developing and administering the registry.

When the Supplement OWL is unveiled at The Conference, member companies and non-member companies in attendance will get a preview of exactly how the registry will work. At launch, the Supplement OWL will include two separate tiers of information, Mister said.

Tier 1 will include a copy of the complete product label and various fields of information about the product, including ingredients, brand name, allergen statements, number of servings and more. Participation in this tier is free for any company who is willing to supply the required information about its products and will be accessible online at no charge to the public.

There are two additional important elements in Tier 1. First, companies will be required to provide manufacturing and packaging facility contact information accessible only to FDA. And second, each product entered will generate a unique product identifier which will have potential use as the Supplement OWL gains traction among product manufacturers, marketers and retailers, FDA, and ultimately consumers.

Tier 2 will allow companies to increase transparency and provide additional fields of information for a nominal fee, including further documentation to support information found in Tier 1 (e.g., if a product label indicates it is Kosher certified, Tier 2 permits the company to add details and upload supporting materials about the specific certification) and the ability to add other quality-focused attributes about the product (e.g., supporting documentation for a sustainability program, third-party cGMP documentation, product specifications, etc.).

Information posted in this tier will be available on a “permission only” basis for retailers and/or regulators, as selected by the manufacturer. Tier 2 functionality offers manufacturers significant support and time savings with managing information as well as requests from retailers and/or regulators, according to UL, who also advises manufacturers will have the ability to customize the information to match requests. “We envision this tier to be most valuable for manufacturers interested in sharing technical information and other quality-focused commitments with retailers seeking a streamlined process to help them evaluate products they are interested in putting on their store or virtual shelves,” commented Duffy MacKay, SVP scientific and regulatory affairs.

The nine companies include seven CRN members — FoodState; Garden of Life; Glanbia Performance Nutrition; Herbalife; NBTY; Pharmavite — and two non-CRN members — GNC (member of the Natural Products Association) and Herbs (member of the American Herbal Products Association).  

CRN anticipates companies will be able to begin inputting their product labels into the registry as early as Nov. 1, and CRN members will be required as a condition of CRN membership to input all their dietary supplement product labels and accompanying information in Tier 1 into the Supplement OWL by the end of July 2017.

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