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The Ultimate Guide to Third-Party Certifications and How to Tell if Your Supplements are What They Say They Are

  • January 04, 2022
15 minute read

There are many products on the market today that claim to enhance brain function, memory, focus and concentration, however some individuals may find some of these claims difficult to believe. Third-party certification is very important in differentiating products that truly contain what they claim versus those who make false or misleading claims. 

Many manufacturers will make claims about their supplements that are not supported by scientific evidence or that may even be in direct opposition to the many studies conducted on nootropics.

Since there is no FDA regulation of these supplements, it falls on independent agencies to ensure product quality prior to selling them so consumers can be confident they are purchasing the supplement product they believe they are getting. This also serves an important purpose in protecting manufacturers who are making good-faith efforts to sell effective products. They need the certification of the product in order to distinguish themselves from those that are selling ineffective or even dangerous supplement products.

Looking for NSF Certified for Sport supplements?

The Purpose of Third Party Certifications? 

To fill in these gaps, many smart drug manufacturers have chosen to get their products certified by an independent third party agency for quality testing and assurance. For example, our nootropics are NSF certified (which we will explain in more detail later in this article). There are a handful of other certification agencies, such as  Informed Choice, USP, BSCG and LabDoor and ConsumerLab.

Each certification program evaluates a specific set of criteria. For example, Informed Choice mainly tests for heavy metals while NSF International's Certified for Sport® program has more stringent testing procedures across the board. The US Pharmacopeia (USP), Clinical or Dietary Supplement Certification Program requires that ingredients be tested for identity, purity, strength and composition. BSCG conducts ingredient and finished product testing whereas Labdoor's reports review the ingredients' safety risk for athletes, provide general information on the products' nutrition facts and identify durability concerns (if any).

To date there is no one all-inclusive certification program that certifies smart drugs across the board. However, many ingredients and some finished products have been certified by more than one agency and there is a definite trend in the industry towards third-party certification. For consumers who want independent quality assurance on their smart drugs and supplements, these certifications provide some peace of mind that the product they are using passes all of the relevant safety tests. Athletes are more concerned with the sort of qualifications nootropics have because it may make all the difference in their ability to participate in sports, whether soccer players or professional gamers.

Why NSF is The Best Third-Party Certification For Athletes

Many consumers of nootropics are sports athletes, especially those who engage in sports requiring high endurance, strength and speed. For these athletes, a supplement that claims to improve mental performance or enhance brain function could affect their competitive edge, safety and overall health.  

To support the athlete community at large – especially those who may be performing at an elite level – NSF International developed its Certified for Sport® program that tests for more than 280 substances banned from sports competitions by major regulatory agencies. This way, athletes can be sure that the supplements they are taking do not contain any substances on these banned lists.

Moreover, this certification program ensures that athletes will not be exposed to adulterated or tainted supplements as they may have been in the past because all participating manufacturers undergo continuous oversight and audits of their production facilities, testing procedures and finished products until they have been certified. Once a supplement has been certified for sport, the manufacturer is listed on the NSF website and will post that fact prominently on their labels.

NSF International's Certified for Sport® program offers consumers an assurance of safety because it requires manufacturers to have their products tested at independent, third party laboratories where results are made available to athletes. To date over 800 dietary supplements have been tested and passed the certification program.

According to the organization, The Certified for Sport®certification is the only independent third-party certification program recognized by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League and the Canadian Football League. Certified for Sport® is also recommended by the NFL, NBA, PGA, LPGA, CCES, CPSDA, iNADO, Ironman, NASCAR, Taylor Hooton Foundation and many other organizations seeking to mitigate the risks of contaminated dietary supplements.

Why Did We Choose To Certify Our Nootropics With NSF?

What is NSF International?

NSF International is a non-profit public health and safety organization. The NSF's goal is to protect consumer health and wellbeing by certifying an ingredient or supplement's quality, purity and potency. It is an independent certifying agency that has been in business since 1944. They are best known for their certification of dietary supplements and food processing plants.

NSF International was established to develop standards for public health and safety purposes. They continue to design product-specific programs that protects consumers from unsafe products through registration and certification programs such as:

  • Certified for Sport® (CF®) Program: 1st independent program worldwide to certify supplements and finished manufactured products [for athletic banned substance compliance.
  • Dietary Supplement Certification Program: an internationally recognized voluntary consensus standard; to verify the quality of ingredients and the truthfulness and accuracy of label information and to ensure that dietary supplements are what they purport to be. The certificate is valid for one year.
  • Foodservice Warewashing Program: Series of standards developed by NSF in cooperation with the National Restaurant Association and the Foodservice Manufacturers Association; ensures equipment cleaning effectiveness, proper use of sanitizers, pH monitoring and water quality testing, etc.
  • Safe Quality Foods (SQF) Program: The SQF certification for foods protects consumer interests by identifying food safety hazards and providing assurance that proper controls are in place to reduce or eliminate those risks.

Why Our Products are NSF Certified

Although there are several other certification programs available, we selected the NSF International's Certified for Sport® program because it is the only one that is endorsed and recognized by both large regulatory agencies and major sports leagues. NSF International's website offers a complete list of all 800+ dietary supplements currently certified for sport.

We want to empower consumers to make smart, safe and informed choices about their food and supplements. No product should contain banned substances like steroids or stimulants that could get them disqualified from a competition or cause an athlete to fail a drug test. 

The accidental use of banned substances in sports supplements has resulted in the disqualification of several athletes from the opportunity to compete at the Olympics. The case of Olympic swimmer Jessica Hardy is a good illustration of an athlete who took a supplement she was unaware was banned. Hardy represented the United States in the 2008 Beijing Olympics as a swimmer. She received a two-year suspension after she was found to have a banned anabolic agent, clenbuterol, in her system at the Olympic Trials. 

Another example is the disqualification of Hungarian Disc Thrower, Robert Fazekas, from the 2013 London Olympic Games. Fazekas filed a lawsuit against Canadian-based MVP biotech, alleging that it failed to disclose the presence of steroids in a protein supplement he was consuming.

This is why it's critical for athletes to use validated supplements that aren't on prohibited lists. An innocent  mistake could cost an athlete a world championship title, or worse. NSF International's Certified for Sport® program gives athletes added confidence in the safety of sports nutrition products used in both training and in competition .By having NSF International certify our products, we're able to help our customers avoid these consequences and continue reaching their athletic goals. 

How To Know If your Supplements are NSF Certified

Products that are NSF Certified for Sport® will have a logo on the label, either in the form of text or an image. You will see 'NSF Certified for Sport' prominently stated. You can also go to the NSF website and search for certain items to see whether they have been certified.

Comparing and Contrasting NSF with Other Organizations

There are a number of other certification and testing programs available for finished supplements, but we believe that none is as rigorous or far-reaching in its testing requirements as the NSF Certified for Sport® program.


ConsumerLab is a supplement testing company that evaluates dietary supplements for quality and provides consumers with the information they need to make educated purchasing decisions. In addition to publishing product reviews, ConsumerLab publishes a quarterly newsletter and an annual guide to dietary supplements that ranks more than 1,000 products according to their quality and value.

ConsumerLab tests primarily vitamins and minerals for label accuracy and to ensure that they will release into solution under normal conditions. While ConsumerLab also tests products used in food-away-from-home settings, it is not a certification program.

NSF vs. ConsumerLab

Although both NSF International and ConsumerLab independently test dietary supplements, their testing is very different. NSF International has a specific certification program for sports nutrition products that contains all of the necessary criteria to ensure compliance with regulatory agencies.

ConsumerLab does not offer certification or any kind of third-party accreditation. Instead, it publishes a list of supplements it deems worthy based on its own internal testing.

Informed Choice

Informed Choice uses markers for banned substances that are more sensitive than the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) list of banned substances and has conducted research to provide context for interpreting marker results. However, Informed Choice does not test every product under the sun. Because Informed Choice uses markers for banned substances, manufacturers can decide which products to include in this certification.

Currently, Informed Choice is the only third party certification program that tests for hormone disruptors in dietary supplements. As a result, Informed Choice has been criticized because it does not conduct annual testing for all genotoxic contaminants as NSF International's Certified for Sport® program does. However, Informed Choice claims that because it uses a "hormone modulating ingredient panel" to test for endocrine disrupting chemicals, it is able to identify the vast majority of hormone disrupting substances including those that are genotoxic. Most substances which are identified as endocrine disruptors by this program are banned from sports competition.

Informed Choice's certification program is appropriate for helping to prevent the bodily harm that may stem from exposing consumers to hormone disrupting substances found in dietary supplements. However, it is not as broad or far-reaching as NSF International's Certified for Sport® because it does not test for substances banned by major regulatory agencies.

NSF vs. Informed Choice

Both NSF International and Informed Choice use third party testing to certify dietary supplements, but both also conduct different types of testing. Like NSF International's Certified for Sport® program, Informed Choice tests for hormone disruptors that may interfere with the body's natural hormonal system and cause harm.


US Pharmacopeia (USP) is a privately funded, non-profit organization that has been recognized by the U.S. Congress as the official provider of publicly available pharmaceutical compendia. USP currently publishes six reference books containing quality information about medicines accepted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). USP works in partnership with governments, healthcare professionals, and consumers to help protect public health by helping ensure the quality, safety, and benefit of medicines.

USP checks the quality of dietary supplements through testing for label accuracy and ensuring that ingredients are included at their stated amounts on labels. USP also tests samples from batches selected at random when they are received or during production. USP does not test all of the product batches it receives for supplement certification, so a certified product can contain a contaminated ingredient if it is from a non-certified batch.


The USP certification program identifies what is on a dietary supplement's label and ensures that it matches what is in the product. However, USP does not test products for banned substances or ingredients which could be harmful.


LabDoor is a supplement testing company that evaluates products based on their verified label claims then publishes their results of the analysis on their website. LabDoor uses a mixture of people and technology to verify label claims, test products for heavy metals/contamination and measure their purity.

LabDoor tests minerals, vitamins and other supplement ingredients as well as finished products. It also uses the highest possible reporting levels for contaminants to ensure that consumers are protected from any potentially unsafe ingredients. Labdoor's testing is not limited to what appears on the labels, so supplements may contain undeclared active pharmaceuticals, excipients or other "cheats" at undisclosed amounts.

NSF vs. LabDoor

LabDoor's testing methods are very similar to NSF International's. LabDoor uses the highest possible reporting levels for contaminants; this is why many supplements fail their tests, which can be helpful information for consumers but may also mislead them because the amount of a contaminant present is not related to its potential risk to humans.

Banned Substances Control Group (BSCG)

BSCG is not a certification program. BSCG partners with manufacturers to ensure that no ingredients in their supplements are on WADA's banned substances list, but the testing is performed by the manufacturer at its own discretion and performed only when a new product release or formulation change occurs.

BSCG Certified Drug Free® provides protection against drugs on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List as well as prescription, over-the-counter (OTC), and illicit drugs not banned in sport.

BSCG Certified Quality™ conducts testing to verify ingredient identity and label claims to meet specifications as well as checking for heavy metals, microbiological agents, pesticides, and solvents.

BSCG Certified GMP™ provides onsite audits to verify that manufacturers are in compliance with Current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP).

BSCG Certified CBD™ offer complete quality solutions for CBD brands that includes a THC limit for drug testing protection, WADA prohibited substance screening, verification of THC and CBD content, contaminant testing, synthetic cannabinoid screening, and evaluation of claims and cGMP compliance.


Both NSF and BSCG are highly respected companies in the industry. While they both test for banned substances, NSF Certified for Sport® is an internationally recognized certification program trusted by athletes around the world to ensure that products have been tested for banned substances/ingredients according to WADA standards.

Knowing about certification programs for smart drugs/nootropics is beneficial to consumers who are looking for supplements or are interested in starting a dietary supplement regimen. Third party certification has emerged as the best way to help protect consumers from exposure to toxins and contaminants in supplements. This is why our products are NSF Certified for Sport®: we believe that we offer another level of protection and peace of mind for our customers.

Looking for NSF Certified for Sport supplements?