The National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) is a nonprofit trade association that promotes the health and well-being of companion animals and horses that are given animal health supplements by their owners, and to protect and enhance the animal health supplement industry. As part of its ongoing effort to improve and standardize the animal health supplement industry, NASC initiated its Quality Seal Program as a way for consumers to know that when they buy a product, they buy from a reputable company that has successfully completed a facility audit.
Pet Age recently spoke with Bill Bookout, founder and president of the NASC, to learn more about his valuable insights on pet health and supplements.
How would you describe the status of the pet health sector?
The pet health sector is strong, largely because people think of and treat their pets as members of the family and pet owners would sooner go without for themselves than let their pets go without. Growth resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic was around 20 percent in the supplement sector for example, which isn’t sustainable. But based on input from industry experts, estimated growth on the pet side of 3 to 5 percent is fairly safe; 4 to 6 percent is probably realistic; and 5 to 8 percent is optimistic but not sustainable.
What is the value of an NASC independent audit?
The NASC audit is pet specific, as opposed to other independent audits. Our auditing standards are specific for the animal supplement industry. The NASC audit provides independent verification that a supplier is acting responsibly by having quality systems in place that will result in consistency and repeatability. This is important for the retailers selling the products. The first question retailers should be asking is about quality. They want suppliers that will have the same product with the same consistency week to week, month to month, year to year because the systems they follow are in writing and process controls are in place, which we verify. A retailer recently told me they want return customers, not returned products. That is achieved through consistency in manufacturing—which leads to consistency in the quality of the product.
Why should retailers and consumers care about product testing at multiple levels?
Quality is assumed by consumers. They see a product on the shelf and assume it’s a quality product or it wouldn’t be there. But if you don’t start with quality raw materials you won’t finish with a quality product. That is a fact. Quality begins with raw materials a manufacturer buys individually and independently and verifies through testing, which isn’t just an NASC requirement, it’s the law. Supplement companies must verify raw materials for strength, purity, potency, composition and contaminants. Then it comes down to good manufacturing practice standards that result in consistency and quality in production processes, which result in the same outcome every single time. Some finished product testing needs to be done as verification because the company is responsible for meeting label claim, but they don’t necessarily have to test every single ingredient on the label. If raw material testing is correct and their batching and blending are correct and their production processes are correct, there should be a high degree of confidence that the product will meet label claim, meaning a higher probability of the animal responding positively as everyone hopes they will.
What is the biggest misconception about pet supplement regulation?
Many people believe this is an unregulated industry, which is absolutely not true. In some ways, pet supplements are more rigorously regulated than human dietary supplements. They’re regulated at the federal level by the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine and also potentially at the state level by the department of agriculture or another state regulatory agency tasked with overseeing these products. In addition, NASC has been a model for successful self-regulation for 20 years and counting. We have a very thorough, robust and comprehensive compliance program, including raw material verification, good manufacturing practice standards, claims and labeling requirements, adverse event reporting and post-market surveillance. These things create a very responsible foundation that a lot of people don’t realize the animal industry participates in. Pet supplements are very much a regulated industry.
What do you hope to achieve through the NASC?
Our ultimate objective is to make a difference. We achieve this by supporting our member companies, whose products significantly impact the quality and quantity of the lives of millions of animals throughout the world daily. We are here to make a positive difference and leave the industry better than we found it. NASC members contribute to a cause greater than their individual company’s self-interests.