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May 11, 2008

Natural Products Association Rushes ahead with a "Natural" Product Standard

Without allowing much time for industry review and feedback, the Natural Products Association has moved to implement their "Standard and Certification for Personal Care Products." As discussed previously on this blog, a meeting was held to discuss this standard in early April, and based on our research online we suggested that more work was needed to integrate standards.  The NPA has moved ahead and published what they describe as an "initial standard" on their website, and is setting up a seal of approval and a process for certification. The standard is intended to encompass "all cosmetic personal care products regulated and defined by FDA."

In my opinion, this is a preemptive move on the part of the NPA to seize the initiative in establishing a standard, without following the usual process for standards development. The international Standards Association (ISO), which is the authoritative international standards body, develops industry wide, voluntary standards based on a consensus of all interested parties. They suggest three main phases in the standards development process:

    1. The need for a standard is usually expressed by an industry sector, which communicates this need to a national member body. The latter proposes the new work item to ISO as a whole. Once the need for an International Standard has been recognized and formally agreed, the first phase involves definition of the technical scope of the future standard. This phase is usually carried out in working groups which comprise technical experts from countries interested in the subject matter. 
    2. Once agreement has been reached on which technical aspects are to be covered in the standard, a second phase is entered during which countries negotiate the detailed specifications within the standard. This is the consensus-building phase. 
    3. The final phase comprises the formal approval of the resulting draft International Standard (the acceptance criteria stipulate approval by two-thirds of the ISO members that have participated actively in the standards development process, and approval by 75% of all members that vote), following which the agreed text is published as an ISO International Standard.

Of course here we are not yet proposing an International Standard. The NPA is an industry sector, that has recognized a need for a standard. But that is where the process has broken down. There has been no public consensus building process, I haven't seen the establishment of a working group of technical experts, and even though the ISO suggests the publication of interim standards (which is what they are calling the current attempt).

The C.A.M. report takes a very skeptical attitude towards the NPA seal, essentially accusing the NPA of producing a marketing gimmick.  He appears to have gotten his information from the press release and not the detailed standard, but who am I to argue with him?  He's probably right.

Posted by Rob on May 11, 2008 in Marketing, Regulatory Issues, Standards | Permalink


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