Surprises are fun when it comes to birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. But when it comes to the medicines and supplements you put in your body daily, surprises are a lot less appealing. You want to know exactly what you’re taking and more importantly, that it’s safe and effective. Luckily, the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) is there to make sure what you see on the labels of your medications and supplements is what you get.
The United States Pharmacopeia (USP) is a scientific nonprofit that was founded in 1820 to establish quality standards for medicine, supplements and food ingredients. Every year, the USP publishes The United States Pharmacopeia and The National Formulary (USP-NF), a book of standards for drugs and supplements.
The USP-NF contains individual guides for a variety of drug and supplement ingredients. These guides are called monographs, and they include information on everything from how the ingredient should be packaged, stored and labeled, to how to test the ingredient to make sure it complies with USP Standards.
The supplement testing guidelines outlined in USP-NF monographs tell supplement manufacturers exactly how to test their ingredients in four key areas (also known as the four P’s): positive identity (the product is what it says it is); potency (the product contains the dosage it says it does); purity (the product doesn’t contain impurities or contaminants); and performance (the product will dissolve and be absorbed by your body). If manufacturers follow these testing guidelines and their ingredient passes each test, they can be confident that their product meets the USP’s standards for safety and effectiveness.
In addition to the USP-NF, the USP also creates a USP reference standard, or physical standard. This is a verified sample of an ingredient that meets USP standards. It comes in a small vial and allows manufacturers to perform comparison testing, so they can ensure that they performed the tests correctly and that their ingredient is up to par.
Although drug companies are required by law to meet the quality standards set by the USP, supplement companies aren’t. Supplement companies can establish their own internal testing methods for quality and safety. Of course, many supplement companies choose to meet USP standards anyway.
Some supplement companies that follow USP standards mention the USP on their label, but many don’t. That’s because, if they do, there’s a chance the FDA will follow up with regulatory action—in some cases even when the company is meeting these standards. As a result, a lot of companies play it safe, and leave these three letters off their label even if they’re doing their best to follow USP guidelines.
If you’re wondering whether your supplements meet USP guidelines, contact the company and ask what standards they follow to guarantee the safety and quality of their products.
USP is considered the highest standard in testing methods. We at Buried Treasure, were applicable, test our ingredients against these gold standard monographs. Our source ingredients come from all over the world and they must meet our highest standards. We search out ingredients that are tested and verified by USP.