Consumer Guide: Salient Facts about Best Bee Pollen Products
The fact that bee pollen is a "natural" supplement does not mean all popular brands are safe. You need to know about
- source conditions
- method of processing
- and correct dosage.
In order to assist your efforts as a savvy consumer, we've presented salient facts in our consumer guide.
We formulated general guidelines and specific safety recommendations to assist you in selecting the right bee pollen supplement.
First, let's explore the importance of taking quality supplements in general.
Why is it Important to Choose a Quality Supplement?
Up 10 Fold Difference In Ingredients
As a good example, let's look at resveratrol, which is an extract of red wine. It is advertised to extend endurance and human life span. Resveratrol is sold in supplement form as tablets, capsules or liquids. According to recent product comparisons, the actual amounts of resveratrol contained in leading supplements varied anywhere from 5-50%. This is a tenfold difference!
Calcium is a supplement that benefits many, especially as our bones age. Vitamin D must be present for proper absorption. Clinical testing of calcium supplements determined that while one brand contained only 44% of vitamin D, the 2nd brand contained a whopping 251% more vitamin D than advertised.
Turmeric is an all-body herb, immune booster and arthritis therapy. Recent scientific tests found that two of the products tested contained a scant 7.7% and 14.7% respectively, of turmeric's vital healing compounds, known as curcuminoids.
Comparing Two Ingredients
For practice, we suggest researching two products containing B2 for ingredient comparison. What results did you obtain? (Isn't this enlightening?)
Here's what we found: One contained riboflavin and the other riboflavin-5'-phosphate. For proper absorption in the body, riboflavin must be transformed to riboflavin-5'-phosphate. So that, even though riboflavin-5'-phosphate is about 10 times more expensive, it is much more effective.
Be mindful, that the FDA does not regulate ingredients in dietary supplements. Ingredients can make a big difference in potency.Read ingredient list on labels mindfully to ensure actual contents live up to manufacturer's claims.
Two supplement products may be advertised as containing the same ingredients. Behind the scenes, there might be a huge difference in terms of effectiveness.
Next, we'll formulate general criteria for choosing quality supplements. Then, we'll introduce specific factors to investigate when shopping for bee pollen supplements.
STEP 1 - General Criteria for Choosing Quality Supplements
Does the Manufacturer Follow Good Practices?
While the FDA monitors the safety of dietary supplements, a great deal of responsibility is left up to the manufacturer and consumer. The FDA does not assume liability for contamination of natural supplements. Instead, they put the onus on the manufacturer for accurate label information and quality control of contaminants.
Toxicity in Supplements
We addressed ingredient labeling in the previous section, but in addition, the potential of purchasing contaminated supplements is a common health concern. Toxic materials such as mercury, metal shavings and pesticides have been found in natural supplements.
While it is up to the manufacturer to ensure an efficient system of quality control is in place, our final choice of a reliable brand becomes vital. We should also carefully scrutinize the product label for "other ingredients".
Such fillers as cellulose, caramel color and titanium dioxide are examples of other unnecessary ingredients. Worse, some fillers could pose a health danger. Try really reading a few labels on supplements you have at home.
Natural Doesn’t Mean Safe
Do any contain natural flavors? Think back to the beginning when we told you that just because it's "natural" doesn't make it safe. Natural flavors could mean that MSG is added. Many people suffer severe allergies to monosodium-glutamate. This food additive has been scientifically proven to cause brain damage and behavior disorders.
How about chemical preservatives? You will find them coded as "a mold inhibitor" or "to promote color retention". Vitamins are notorious for including hydrogenated oils. These oils increase the risk of heart disease.
Consumer Spotlight: As conscious consumers, we must make concerted efforts to buy only quality supplements. A majority of manufacturers strive to sell a quality product, which is labeled with correct ingredients and is contaminant free. Unfortunately, rogue manufacturers exist, who crank-out product that does not contain ingredients or correct amounts of ingredients that are listed on their label. Further, they pay scant attention to quality control.
FDA GMP Warning Letters on Rise
In 2010, the Department of Health and Human Services implemented "Good Manufacturing Practices" (GMP) designed to serve as "drop-dead" guidelines for makers of supplements. In consequence, the FDA issued eight GMP letters to manufacturers who were in violation during 2010. For 2011, 34 manufacturers received GMP letters of violation, ranging from lack of product stipulations to failure to keep required records.
In 2010, problems with incorrect labeling included seven GMP letters for technical errors and 10 violation letters for invalid labeling claims. During 2011, 17 technical error violations and 25 invalid labeling claims surfaced and were cited.
How to Check Purity of Product
The company itself is the best starting place to investigate whether the supplement brand you plan to purchase is pure. Call the company and ask if they provide a certificate of analysis (COA) for each batch of products.
The certificate of analysis is issued after independent labs perform tests to verify 1) active ingredients in supplement 2) purity of product. Provided the manufacturer is able to produce a COD upon request, it should satisfy your comfort level. In essence, the certificate translates to honorable intentions of the company to sell high-quality supplements.
Request a COA
The COA, at minimum, will list levels of heavy metals and micro-biological contamination in the product batch. Studying the certificate should instill a certain amount of confidence in the purity level of the product. Find out the current batch number of the supplement that interests you and request a COA for the batch. Some companies have COA's and other product information listed on their websites.
Alternatively, your point-of-purchase vendor may have COA's on file. In fact, if the health food store or your choice of vendor does not maintain current certificates, you might consider taking your consumer dollar elsewhere.
Next, investigate whether or not testing is performed by a GMP approved independent company. This means the lab performing product testing complies with identical guidelines pharmaceutical manufacturers follow for safety and standards.
Consumer Spotlight: All dietary supplements aren't alike. Due to some unscrupulous merchants, natural products may be adulterated. Even merchants with best intention are limited to what is permissible on the label. Without clear product labeling, it is up to us, as consumers to make informed decisions before buying the product. Standardized on the product label means the product is processed to guarantee a degree of purity and contain a known minimum of the major active ingredients.
Beware Fake News Sites
I would like to give a long break to our guide here and take your attention to an important fact when shopping online. Fake products along with fake websites and testimonials.
Fake Weight Loss Products
Marketers of acai berry supplements, touting their use in products for weight loss, were recently exposed by the Federal Trade Commission. Ten fake news sites were discovered. Bogus companies are using fraudulent news websites such as, "Health News Alerts" along with logos of news networks such as, CNN, CBS and Fox to mislead the public that their product reports have been viewed by major news outlets.
One bogus claim cites a personal testimony by a "reporter", using the supplement who lost 25 pounds in one month. According to the FTC, all their claims, including objective reporting, user testimonials and supposed results of weight loss are deceptive and phony. Numerous complaints have been reported to the FTC by customers who fell prey to the fake news sites and shelled-out as much as $100 for worthless weight loss supplements.
A consumer alert site, set up by the FTC gives tips for recognizing and avoiding fraudulent news sites that are peddling acai berry weight loss supplements. A video on the site speaks to "free trials" used as a marketing ploy for acai berry products.
Allegedly the testimonials on the fake sites are actors who have never used, tested or lost the purported weight by using acai berry supplements. Free trials result in commissions for the marketers if customers purchase the products. The FTC reported that although defendants in this case have spent upwards of $10 million for advertising, they have probably scammed consumers out of amounts exceeding their outlay.
The FTC is seeking for the courts to eternally block fraudulent marketing claims and to force such companies to refund monies to customers who purchased the acai berry and other weight loss products.
Allegations of FTC against acai berry marketers are:
- Bogus claims of "rapid and substantial" weight loss.
- Deception in advertising: websites as unbiased news reporting; independent testing establishes efficacy of weight loss supplement and comments on websites "reflect the views of independent consumers".
This is a living example of buyer beware! The World Wide Web is a goldmine of information, but it is also a conduit for fraudulent studies, "news", articles and reports about dietary supplements. Be aware and beware, if a website makes unsubstantiated claims or their product sounds too good to be true, it is likely a fraudulent vendor, waiting for a gullible customer to "bite".
We urge you to conduct your own due process before purchasing natural supplements. Buy only quality products from honest vendors.
Let's get back to our guide
Are you Buying from the Middle Man?
Manufacture of dietary supplements is a multi-million dollar market. With Americans becoming more health-conscious, the supplement market will continue to experience growing pains. As a result, many manufacturers are looking to contract manufacturers to fill the gap.
While benefits of outsourcing would be readily apparent for the manufacturer, the consumer may suffer in several ways. Contract manufacturing is yet another reason we should take care to know the product before we buy it.
Pitfalls of contract manufacturing for consumers are:
- Compromised quality control - when manufacturers outsource supplements they cannot remain vigilant about quality control. The end product may be inferior and health hazardous.
- Secondary contracts – the contract manufacturer may also make their own brand of supplements. Therefore, they have little interest in producing secondary contract supplements. Their primary motive is financial, consequently they likely pay little attention to making a quality product for another vendor.
- Employees – the employees who are filling the contract may be substandard per industry specifications.
Private Label Branding
It is estimated that about 70% of Americans consider private label products as being on the same par as main brands. The supplement industry contributes to private labeling in a big way. Many supplements are produced by one manufacturer and sold to the consumer using another company's brand name.
These supplements appeal to the price-conscious individual. If you are considering the purchase of private label branding supplements, check for "USP Verified" on the label. This stamp ensures that the U.S. Pharmacopeia validated the purity and quality of the product.
Otherwise, your health may be severely compromised by inferior quality control and misleading ingredients.
Pressure from Shareholders
It is prudent to find out who owns and controls the company. A privately owned company does not bow to pressure from shareholders in areas of pricing and profit margins. You will receive the customer care you deserve.
Glean all the information possible from the company website and if you have doubts, call customer service.
Testing Customer Service
Internet shopping is easy, convenient and often more cost-effective. On the other hand, you are more at risk of scams or frauds, than when you buy supplements from a brick and mortar storefront.
We recommend a pre-emptive strike before purchase. Contact the customer service department and give them a "test".
- Is there an easy way to contact customer service?
- What is their refund policy?
- Inquire about potential effects of the product regarding any health condition you may suffer.
- Are there reported side-effects when taking the supplement?
- Are they willing to provide credentials from their major product formulator(s)?
- Will they send you a COA of the current product batch?
The point of this exercise is to determine if the customer service is responsive, knowledgeable and customer orientated.
Consumer Spotlight: Your health is your greatest gift. You mustn't entrust it to money-grubbers. Before your dollars and you separate, make every effort to buy supplements only from trusted sources. A little upfront effort will pay big dividends in the long run.
This concludes our section on general criteria for choosing quality supplements. Next, we'll introduce specific factors to look for in bee pollen supplements.
STEP 2 - Factors to Look for in Bee Pollen Supplements
Purity of Bee Pollen
The major concern in choosing the purest bee pollen is pollution. When a contaminant enters the environment, it creates pollution. While the majority of pollutants are initiated by humans, natural disasters, such as forest fires or volcanic eruptions also contribute. Pollution is harmful to every living thing.
Bee pollen soaks-up pollution from the air, as well as chemicals in the environment. When the pollen is produced in cities that are industrialized, it absorbs toxic chemicals released into the air by factories.
The leading sources of bee pollen are: U.S., Canada, China, Australia and China. Your mission is to find out where your bee pollen comes from. We can tell you without reservation, your bee pollen should not come from China!
First, China is over-industrialized. Air pollution such as pesticides and other toxic chemicals infiltrate the hives and contaminate bee pollen. Next, Chinese beekeepers use a lead-based paint in their beehives. The paint releases heavy-metal contaminants that contribute to the pollen's pollution.
Any bee pollen you introduce into your body should be sourced from a pristine environment. Canada is one clean environmental source.
Method of Delivery
Bee pollen should not be processed or heat dried. Heat annihilates essential nutrients and enzymes.
Take care to purchase a freeze-dried product. This method of delivery ensures pollen will not oxidize, which leads to degradation.
Timing plays a big role in delivery. Expert beekeepers harvest between 1-3 days routinely, collecting pollen in stainless steel "traps". After collection, pollen should be air-dried and rapidly frozen. Then it should be packaged in a manner that discourages light.
Are you aware that only a small fraction of bee pollen ingredients are available to your body? The normal absorption rate is estimated at about 5%.
Granules of pollen have hard outer husks, making it difficult to digest. Most of them pass through the digestive system in a whole state.
Are you beginning to suspect you could waste your money on a cheap bee pollen product that delivers poor bioavailability? The answer is, always buy a quality product!
Consumer Spotlight: Your choice of bee pollen product should be free of contaminants; it should be freeze-dried quickly after gathering; it should provide maximum bioavailability. Be mindful, you get what you pay for!
This concludes our section on specific factors to look for in bee pollen supplements. Now, we'll lead you step-by-step through the factors we've suggested, as we explore, Xtend- Life, which is the specific bee pollen product we recommend.
STEP 3 - A Step by Step Practical Analysis of A Bee Pollen Supplement
Let’s put a product on the table and analyse it with all the mentioned factors above.
We have been using nutritional supplements from a reliable company for more than 6-7 years.
I would like to go through their bee pollen product called as Natural Energy throughout the rest of this guide as a sample.
Quality in Manufacturing
Earlier we investigated GMP or Good Manufacturing Practices. As proof of Xtend-Life's quality in manufacturing, they were awarded a pharmaceutical grade GMP level. This level is rare in the health supplement industry. Xtend-Life maintains complete control over development and manufacturing processes.
To obtain potency, purity, safety and maximum efficiency from any bee pollen product, you should seek this level of impeccability from your manufacturer.
Xtend-Life is fully HACCP certified. This certification exceeds the US FDA GMP. Companies that have a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) certification, practice stringent safety standards in dietary food supplement manufacturing. Consumers can be assured that HACCP certified companies manufacture only the highest quality health products.
The HACCP certification is only awarded to manufacturers, following implementation of all-inclusive safety program. Further, the manufacturer must document policies and procedures and comply with current GMP. Under the auspice of USFDA, manufacturers are held accountable for control of pollutants, such as chemical or biological, during production and handling, manufacturing and distribution and ultimately to consumption of dietary food supplements by the consumer.
As a concerned consumer, it just doesn’t get better than this. You are ensured of the purest supplement, made from highest-quality ingredients that contains the ingredients listed on the label.
Consumer Spotlight: Your bee pollen product should ideally be manufactured by a company that is GMP and HACCP certified. Don't settle for low-grade bee pollen that is likely to pose health risks.
Even FDA approved drugs or baby formulas are prone to problems.
Johnson & Johnson faced what is being reported the biggest recall of children's medication, in April 2010. A "remote" chance of serious health problems existed, due to potential of small metal parts and possible bacterial contamination in children's Motrin, Tylenol and Benadryl. Johnson & Johnson and McNeil Consumer Healthcare are under investigation by Congress, subsequent to recall.
In another scenario, beetles were discovered in Similac baby formula during September 2010. Parents were assured by the company that any formula, which had reached the market was "unlikely" to be contaminated. Further, in the event bugs were contained in Similac, the formula was "unlikely" to cause harm to babies.
Abbott Labs recalled five million cans and plastic containers of the formula as a safety measure. After testing, Abbott reported that 99.8% of the recalled product was free from beetle contaminants.
Now, we'll see how Xtend-Life bee pollen products measure up to the criteria we set-out for investigating quality dietary supplements.
Do they provide Certificate of Analysis?
Yes! We requested a copy of the current COA for Natural Energy bee pollen supplement. Holding the actual certificate in your hand is an experience in itself! In fact we got the "warm fuzzies"! It is a real comfort to discover a company that is upfront about their business practices.
Pay particular attention to the third column of the COA, labeled "results" and you'll agree! Xtend-Life scored "conforms" in every single category from "heavy metals" to "microbiological properties".
Is it a third party manufactured product?
No! All Xtend-Life bee pollen products are manufactured in-house. The company exercises complete control from the get-go. They adhere to maximum safety and quality control standards. The company dictates that all raw materials must be gleaned from pristine environments. Your Xtend-Life bee pollen supplements are guaranteed pure and highest quality.
Who owns the company?
Xtend-Life is family owned, under the auspice of family trust agreements. Therefore, there is no shareholder pressure to compromise product manufacturing standards. In simple words – price is not King; quality product comes before the bottom line!
What is the quality of customer service?
We have communicated with customer service at Xtend-Life on several occasions. According to our personal experience, customer service employees are quick to respond and provide detailed answers to questions. This is a company that takes pride in their product and excellence in customer satisfaction.
Is a product guarantee available?
There is a return/refund policy in place covering any customer dissatisfaction, which remains valid up to a period of six months after purchase. A dedicated e-mail address is available for requesting refunds. Or, you can contact customer service.
All unopened bottles of Xtend-Life product qualify for a refund, as well as one bottle you previously opened and are using. For unhappy customers, there is a "product complaint" section on the website menu. In all objectiveness, we are confident Xtend-Life makes it easy for you to return any product, if you aren't getting desirable benefits.
Who is the formulator?
Prof. Dr. A. Munem Daoud PhD., MSc., ND, Biochemist and Researcher is the formulator and designer of the Xtend-Life product line. You can read his C.V. on the company website, but here are a few impressive facts:
- Daoud has accumulated 30 years experience in Biotechnology and Chemistry, specifically in multidisciplinary areas
- He has developed both pharmaceutical and complementary meds for clinics globally
- Served as chief scientific researcher and director for high level government and commercial bodies
- Expertise in environmental process, microbiology, food and complementary health
Do hard facts support this manufacturer's bee Pollen purity?
Xtend-Life bee pollen is sourced from New Zealand, which is acclaimed as the most pristine area remaining in the world. The source of bee pollen borders the national park. It is totally contamination-free.
Raw ingredients are further scrutinized for efficacy and freshness. Potential oxidation is controlled through stainless steel holding-tanks. A GMP authorized lab tests each batch of the finished product for contamination and heavy metals. Inferior and/or potentially contaminated products are discarded.
What does the company do to maximize bioavailability?
WOW – this phase of production is really exciting! As we addressed earlier, only about 5% of the good stuff in bee pollen is actually absorbed by the human body. Not so with Natural Energy Bee Pollen by Xtend-Life!
In order to boost absorption rate, bee pollen is converted into a powdery state. Special enzymes are blended into the powder. The blending protocol is a five-day process that achieves high levels of bioavailability.
We trust that our Bee Pollen Buyer's Guide will serve as a roadmap, throughout your sojourn to find the purest, highest-quality dietary supplements.
Do your own Research
Our guidelines are designed to help you formulate a strategy in finding the best bee pollen supplement and/or other dietary supplements. However, in good conscience, we urge you to conduct your own research, using the tools we've provided.
You now know how to analyze health supplements, how to spot a scam and pertinent questions to ask the customer service department. We are compelled to reiterate the importance of knowing about the product and getting to know the company that manufactures the product.
Know the Product and Know the Company
After we personally tested the Xtend-Life product line, we called upon friends, co-workers and family for second opinions. Every single one of our testers was enthusiastic about the positive results.
In particular, we like the company's integrity. For example, from the Xtend-Life website:
"We develop our products to meet people's needs and not to minimize production costs."
"We always put the best interests of our customers before profits."
Ask the CEO
In our estimation, the positive attitudes and caring posture of Xtend-Life employees starts from the top and "rolls" downward. Do yourself a favor, if you're undecided, check-out the website, for a word (or two) from the company Chairman regarding guiding principles behind his successful company or ask your service or product related questions to the CEO of the company directly. (If you have a specific health related question, you can use this link)
Get A Sense of The Soul
We also recommend that you peruse the blog and section on questions and answers, to get a sense of the "soul" of the company. It's all too true that consumers usually are forced to conduct business with faceless companies. We prefer knowing who stands behind the product line and whether or not they care about their customers.
When it's all said and done, people - instead of certificates like GMP or HACCP – create the purest products. However, we shouldn't discount the merits of advanced technology and high level certifications to distinguish a reputable company from profit mongers.
We stand proud in our conviction that intentions and attitudes of company personnel are the driving-force behind impeccable products and services.
Ultimately – it's your health, handle with care!