Our Approach to Raw Material Sourcing and Testing

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Our Approach to Raw Material Sourcing and Testing


Here at Highland Laboratories, we take quality seriously.  Every product we produce is put through a rigorous series of tests from confirming identity and potency to screening for heavy metals, insecticides and microbes to disintegration testing to ensure the tablets break down in your system the way they are supposed to.  We do this as part of our UL NPA GMP certification, but also because it's what we believe.  We won't create a product that we wouldn't take ourselves.
To delve a bit deeper into this topic, we interviewed our Director of Quality and Compliance, John Mills to find out how, why, and where he sources.
 
What are your considerations when sourcing a raw material?  Is price a factor? 
Price is never a determining factor.  When I'm looking for a material, I'm looking for specific specifications on that material.  Now, price can enter into it after I have found the specifications, but I'm always looking first at specifications.  If I can't find the appropriate material, it doesn't matter what the price is.  
 
What are those specifications? 
It depends on the material. Let's say I'm looking for a protein powder. First, I am looking for the sourcing material, country of origin, protein content, and if its been manipulated in any way.  For example, if I'm looking for an ionic whey protein which has been filtered in a very specific fashion, then I need to know if they've done that.  If it meets all my specification criteria, then I start talking about pricing.  When I look for other suppliers to compare products with, I will send them a summary of the specifications and say 'this is what I'm looking for. Can you provide it?'  
So, pricing is never the first consideration on anything we do here.  That may not be the business way to do it, but it's the quality way.  
 
You mentioned Country of Origin. What are your thoughts on that topic? 
If I have a choice between raw materials from overseas or from the U.S., I will choose the U.S. material.  It's easier to get.  It's already here in the country, so it can arrive faster and with less stress.  My biggest concern if I'm buying a material from overseas is that I have to ship it here.  It takes longer and there is a lot more to do as far as getting it into the country is concerned.  So, it's easier to work with material from the U.S.  That said, it's not always cleaner than material from overseas - that's a misconception.  
 
We always do our due diligence in determining contamination issues on any raw material we buy regardless of the country of origin.  We do full gamma testing - the whole board of microbials, the whole board of heavy metals.  I once had experience buying organic American Ginseng from a U.S. supplier that was contaminated with E. coli.  We did not expect that, but that is what happened.  I won't use a raw ingredient that has a contaminant in it.  I don't care if it's organic; if it is contaminated, I don't want it.  Period.  
 
So, the bottom line is that we don't worry too much about country of origin.  We just have to know that it is what it says it is and that it's clean of any contamination.  So, we test everything that comes in the door regardless of where it originated from.  
 
Do you reject a number of raw materials?
We reject quite a few - probably 1 per week.  We'll reject it for a number of reasons: 
- There is no match - in other words, it doesn't match our identification testing.  The material isn't what it says it is. 
- It fails miserably in its active component.  Actually, it doesn't even have to fail miserably.  If it fails marginally, we'll still reject it because we have to have the right potency. 
- Microbials fail. 
- Heavy metals fail - this has been the biggest failure.  
 
Do you have any questions for John?  Please include them in the comments below and we'll review them in a future post.  

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