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Valentina Quintana

How to Choose Your Supplements Safely?

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Are you interested in adopting a healthier lifestyle and have you started buying supplements? Do you think you need help to give energy to the body or for a specific function?

Imagine the following scenario: you are walking through a park and you run into an old friend. You start a conversation and you mention that you need to buy vitamins for concentration. She recommends “natural” ones made by an acquaintance of hers at home. A few days later, following his recommendation, you acquire a bottle of “memory vitamins” and start taking them. After 2 months you have not felt any effects beyond abdominal discomfort associated with the intake of the famous vitamins. What happened?

As consumers, we expect medicines and supplements to be effective and safe. Many times we are faced with countless options offered on the market and we end up choosing the one with the most colors or the one with the cheapest price. We don’t read labels, or we don’t know how to recognize their compounds. We even assume that the packaging contains all the necessary information to make the decision to buy the product or not. We trust too much.

However, if we seek to give our body the best care, we must be responsible and choose what we are going to consume with the best possible quality.

In this article, you’ll find all the things you need to know about your supplement before deciding. Read!

The quality of the supplements

The supplement industry is growing more and more. The consumption of vitamins, minerals and products derived from medicinal plants has become a common practice both among those who wish to supplement their diet, as well as those who require specific support to treat certain conditions or diseases.

The problem is that, unlike the pharmaceutical industry, the supplement industry is not regulated with the same requirements. Unstudied and non-certified products can go on sale without major restrictions and be available to anyone.

Hence the importance of learning to look at which elements determine the quality of the product we are looking for, and whether or not it is certified by a regulatory entity that guarantees certain production standards.

As an additional detail, the requirements to acquire a certification can change in different parts of the globe, so not all of them are synonymous with purity, safety and effectiveness.

The origin of the materials

When we talk about raw materials, we must ensure that their origin is declared on the product’s packaging and that it complies with adequate production, transport and storage standards.

This becomes important when it comes to getting a high-quality product, since not all countries have the same requirements or meet the same requirements when producing certain compounds. When a company is willing to reduce its production costs at the cost of compromising the integrity of its products or the working conditions of its staff, it will not comply with certifications or quality controls. One way to ensure that your supplement complies with a standardized and regulated process is through Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certification. This implies that the origin of its raw materials must meet the same standards, resulting in a high-quality final product.

GMP Certification

Good Manufacturing
(GMP) is applied to the production of medicines, food and cosmetics, among other items.

This includes formulation development, stability studies, preparation processes, quality testing, and everything else needed before the product goes on sale

They offer a guarantee in quality and ensure that the products are generated in a controlled and regular manner. These regulations attempt to prevent risks of contamination and uncertain mixtures of components, which can result in harmful consequences for the consumer.

The regulation of good manufacturing practices is based on European regulations. These are royal decrees and standards of the international harmonization conference, which includes the steps to follow for the correct manufacture of medical products with all the necessary details.

Requirements of GMP standards

  • Trained staff. Each person must be qualified to perform process controls. Their functions must be defined and recorded in a procedure. In addition, personnel must be in constant training according to the needs that arise in the manufacturing processes. Those who perform quality control should dedicate themselves exclusively to it. In addition, hygiene protocols are required, the use of appropriate clothing and the handling of products and the consumption of food and cigarettes in the facilities are prohibited.
  • Qualified and calibrated installations and equipment. All procedures must be validated and documented. Facilities should be located in appropriate environments to minimize the risks of contamination. They must follow strict hygiene measures, as well as temperature and ventilation conditions. Premises must be designed to prevent the entry of animals, insects or dust. Conservation of raw materials and proper use of containers and packaging.
  • Production, storage and distribution. Compliance with documented protocols in the handling of raw materials and products. Processes carried out by competent personnel. Packaging with appropriate labelling and processes that avoid errors in the contents. Permanent labels during the manufacture, storage and distribution of products. Cross-contamination prevention measures. Inspection of the condition of containers and packaging in the reception and delivery of materials or products, and their corresponding registration.
  • Documentation. Detailed record of all existing processes. Each record must be in clear and specific language. Documentation of any changes to an established process, with research to document such change. Documents that allow full traceability of the products are also required.
  • Quality Controls. Applied in all decisions during the manufacturing process of a product. It is essential that control is independent of production.
  • Self Inspections. External materials or services required in the production process must also comply with GMP standards, so as not to affect the quality or safety of the products.

ISO 22000 Standards

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO)

), seeks to protect the consumer and ensure food safety. Within this framework, the ISO 22000 standard is the one that determines all the requirements that must be met in the handling of food to ensure that products are safe.

A company that is certified under this standard has been able to demonstrate its commitment to the consumer and its ability to control all potential risks associated at any point in the food chain.

ISO 22000 can be applied in any organization that has a relationship with the food chain, regardless of its specific function or geographical location.

These include:

  • Producers as farmers and ranchers
  • Processing Plants
  • Manufacturing Plants
  • Transportation Services
  • Storage
  • Cleaning product suppliers or equipment manufacturers
  • Wholesale or retail outlets

In this way, you as a consumer can have the peace of mind that the product you have purchased is safe and of excellent quality.


Another important point when choosing your supplements is to look at what components it contains apart from the main active compound. Depending on their presentation, laboratories often need to add inert additives or “excipients” to a drug or supplement. These are inactive vehicles, i.e., they do not interact with or modify the main component of the preparation, and are used to increase the size of a tablet and give it stability, color, or flavor, as needed.

In a study published in the journal Science in 2020, researchers observed 134 active effects in 38 commonly used excipients, performing in vitro tests

. Although the limit of these compounds is regulated for the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical industry, there is a risk of reaching levels higher than those recommended in people who consume multiple drugs containing the same excipients. This can become a problem, especially for people who are sensitive to some compounds.

Nowadays it has been seen that these inactive elements are not always harmless. Many of them can cause harm in people with allergies or intolerances to certain ingredients such as dairy, eggs, crustaceans, gluten, nuts, and derivatives of all of them. Impaired intestinal absorption is one of the most common drawbacks.

Product Testing

Once the supplements are manufactured, the process doesn’t end there. These must be continuously tested to define suitable storage conditions and expiry date. It must be ensured that the product maintains its properties from the first day to the last without losing quality in the meantime. Storage and distribution conditions are also evaluated, as long as they do not affect any aspect of the product.


So, if you are looking for a supplement, the best parameter to choose an ideal quality product is to look for the certification seals, check the presence of the most abundant allergens and read the ingredients in detail. If you still have doubts after that, the option to contact the manufacturer should be available on the packaging.

Best wishes!

By Valentina Quintana

Surgeon from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and specialist in Integrative Medicine. I help people improve their health through lifestyle changes, adopting a diet for therapeutic purposes, with a focus on the mind-gut relationship, and with stress management techniques. Additionally, I work as a professor of Western Medicine in Acupuncture Schools and I give educational workshops on Natural Medicine and healthy habits.


  1. Manufacture of medicines – Spanish Agency for Medicines and Medical Devices. (n.d.). Spanish Agency for Medicines and Medical Devices.
  2. Guide to Good Manufacturing Practices – Spanish Agency for Medicines and Medical Devices. (n.d.). Spanish Agency for Medicines and Medical Devices.
  3. Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council. (n.d.). EUR-Lex — Access to European Union law — choose your language.
  4. Aesan – Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition. (n.d.).
  5. Pottel, J., Armstrong, D., Zou, L., Fekete, A., Huang, X. P., Torosyan, H., Bednarczyk, D., Whitebread, S., Bhhatarai, B., Liang, G., Jin, H., Ghaemi, S. N., Slocum, S., Lukacs, K. V., Irwin, J. J., Berg, E. L., Giacomini, K. M., Roth, B. L., Shoichet, B. K., & Urban, L. (2020). The activities of drug inactive ingredients on biological targets.
    Science (New York, N.Y.)
    (6502), 403–413.
  6. ISO 22000:2005 Food safety management systems — Requirements for any organization in the food chain. Retrieved from
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