Thursday, June 12, 2014

Does Your Food Have a GMP Certification? (and why you should care!)

Why should you care if your food or dietary supplements have a GMP certification? Well, if you don't want to be one of the estimated 50 million Americans that becomes ill from unsafe food, then the GMP certification should be important to you. Over 100 thousand people require hospital care and around 3000 deaths occur each year from consuming unsafe food. GMP stands for Good Manufacturing Practices and refers to a set of guidelines established to ensure that food, drugs and dietary supplements are safe for people. Various agencies are responsible for the overseeing and regulating of these practices to promote food security. The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) defines food security as being "access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life." (http://www.sustainabletable.org/280/food-security-food-access). It takes into consideration not only the quality of food, but also the distribution, use, access to and how stable the food supply is. 

Why Do We Need GMP?
Food that comes from industrialized farming practices and manufacturing not only has a lot of the nutritional value of the food stripped away, but often develops bacteria such as E. coli or Salmonella that make us sick. If you buy foods with the USDA organic label then you can be assured that antibiotics, pesticides and chemical fertilizers were not used for growing it, but these are standards and not safety regulations. Since organic products have become more and more popular they are often being produced on larger farms and imported from other countries. This can also put them at risk for safety. The best way to be sure you are getting the healthiest, freshest and safest food is to buy from local, sustainable food sources. Buying from local farmers allows you to see for yourself the growing conditions and talk to the farmers about their farming practices.

How GMP Works
To be GMP certified a company must follow practices that meet guidelines for the manufacturing and selling of food, drugs, or pharmaceutical products. These guidelines apply to manufacturing and testing to make sure the products are safe, high quality and do not pose health risks. In the United States GMPs for food and drugs are enforced by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). A company that is GMP certified has established a facility that is designed with appropriate current technology and practices to control the design and manufacturing of food and drug products. Part of what is required by GMP regulations is well maintained and calibrated equipment, trained and qualified workers, and systems and processes in place that can be reproduced and shown to be reliable. These are not a set of rules or regulations that are set in stone because companies need some flexibility to account for their various products and locations, but the guidelines give enough guidance to ensure safety of any food, drugs or dietary supplement products and have an agency overseeing them.

In the United States there is a division of responsibility for the safety monitoring of different products. The USDA covers meat and poultry whether domestic or imported and any processed foods that have meat or poultry in them as well as any products from processed eggs. Animals are inspected before and after slaughter, manufacturing plants are inspected and samples are tested by this agency.

Products not containing meat are overseen by the FDA. This agency inspects facilities that produce foods and reviews safety procedures put in place for any new products. If a product is found to be unsafe, they can order a recall just as the USDA can for meat products.

If a disease is identified as coming from a food source, then the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) becomes involved. They investigate theses occurrences and track them. Products for seafood and dairy products are the responsibility of state agencies working in conjunction with federal agencies to oversee safety.

Dietary supplements have their own specific GMP certification program for products and testing standards that were developed by the NSF (National Sanitation Foundation). This program protects consumers by testing for harmful levels of contaminants and certifying that supplements contain the ingredients listed on the label and nothing else. Dietary supplements that have the GMP certification assure the consumer that every ingredient is thoroughly tested for possible pollutants or contaminants and verified 100% pure. Supplements that are specifically intended to be used by athletes have additional guidelines to be adhered to in order to be NSF Certified for Sport. For sports supplements, over 165 substances that have been banned by sports organizations are included in the testing. This includes stimulants, steroids and narcotics to name a few.

To insure you are getting the highest quality food, medicines and supplements, look to see if the company that manufactured them holds a GMP certification. For food, look for local farm sources that you can buy from or grow your own home garden or patio garden. Our bodies need food for fuel. Our food shouldn't make us sick or not have the nutritional value we need. Between finding good sustainable food sources and supplementing your diet with high quality supplements, you can get all the nutrition you need to stay healthy.

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Image courtesy of digitalart  /  FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Sources:
http://www.sustainabletable.org/870/food-processing-distribution
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_manufacturing_practice
http://www.fda.gov/drugs/developmentapprovalprocess/manufacturing/ucm169105.htm

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