Q&A: Consumer Resources

Select one of the topics below to view the questions. If you do not see your question listed, you are welcome to contact our Consumer Affairs Office for further assistance.

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Bottled Water

  • Open Is water packaged in #7 plastic bottles safe to drink?

    Bottled water products that are sold in the U.S. are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a food product. While not required to be contaminant free, any impurities present in the product must be within the maximum allowable concentrations set by the FDA. The FDA also requires bottlers to disclose any additives in the water, such as fluoride or minerals.

    NSF certified bottled water products are tested for more than 160 microbiological, radiological, heavy metal and chemical contaminants. In addition, the production facilities are regularly audited to ensure good manufacturing practices are in place to protect product integrity. A complete list of bottled water brands that are NSF certified is posted on the NSF website.

  • Open Is bottled water required to be free of contaminants?

    In the U.S., bottled water products are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a food product. While not required to be contaminant free, any additives in the water, such as fluoride or minerals, must be disclosed on the product label. Any impurities present in the product must be within the maximum allowable concentrations set by the FDA.

    NSF certified bottled water products are tested for more than 160 microbiological, radiological, heavy metal and chemical contaminants. In addition, the production facilities are regularly audited to ensure good manufacturing practices are in place to protect product integrity. A complete list of bottled water brands that are NSF certified is posted on the NSF website.

  • Open What's the best bottled water to drink?

    While there is no ratings system for bottled water, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has established official standards of identify for bottled water. The most common bottled water types include:

    Drinking Water - Can originate from a variety sources, including public water supplies. It may undergo additional treatment, such as disinfection or filtration.

    Purified Water - Is produced through reverse osmosis, deionization or distillation so that it meets the definition of purified water in the United States Pharmacopoeia. The amount of metals and minerals in purified water is usually lower than in other types of bottled water.

    Spring Water - Comes from an underground formation from which water flows naturally to the surface. It can contain minerals and other substances that occur naturally in the area from which the water is being drawn.

    Mineral Water - Comes from an underground formation that is physically and geologically protected. Similar to spring water, it can contain minerals and other substances that occur naturally in the area from which the water is being drawn. No minerals may be added to it.

    Keep in mind that terms such as pure or natural are advertising terms and do not indicate the quality of the product. If you are unsure which type of bottled water would be best for you, you may want to consult with a registered dietician or other health care provider to see if they can help make a recommendation.

  • Open I've heard that bottled water isn't as regulated as tap water. Is that true?

    If you find the NSF certification mark on the label, this means that the bottled water underwent extensive testing for more than 160 contaminants. We also inspect the bottling facilities to make sure they meet rigorous standards for good manufacturing practices. You can get a full list of NSF certified bottled water brands online or confirm whether your favorite brand carries NSF certification.

    If you are traveling in foreign countries, make sure your bottled water still has an intact factory seal. Do not accept any product where the seal has been broken, as the quality of the contents cannot be guaranteed.

  • Open How do I know my bottled water is safe?

    NSF certified bottled water products undergo extensive testing for more than 160 contaminants, while the bottling facilities themselves must meet rigorous standards for good manufacturing practices. Look for the NSF mark on the label or check the NSF online listings to confirm that your favorite brand carries NSF certification.

    Special tip for travelers: When visiting foreign countries, make sure your bottled water still has an intact factory seal. Do not accept any product where the seal has been broken, as the quality of the contents cannot be guaranteed.

  • Open What kind of contaminants is bottled water tested for?

    Bottled water must be checked for the presence of many different contaminants as well as other quality characteristics, including:

    • Aesthetic contaminants, which can adversely affect the taste, odor or color of the water, including iron, manganese, zinc, chloride, sulfate and total dissolved solids.
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    • Health-related contaminants, for which a potential health hazard has been established. Impurities included in this category are arsenic, chromium, lead, mercury and nitrates. In addition to heavy metals and radiological issues, bottled water is checked for many volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), including pesticides and other synthetic chemicals.
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    • Microbiological concerns, including coliform bacteria, which are not disease-causing themselves but indicate the possibility that other disease-causing bacteria may be present. Since bottled water companies are required to ensure their water is microbiologically safe, many choose to disinfect their water prior to bottling through a process such as ozonation, ultraviolet disinfection or chlorination.
  • Open What's the best way to store bottled water?

    Bottled water should be handled like any other food product you bring into your home. Avoid storing bottled water in a garage or basement where it might be exposed to gasoline fumes, chemicals or excessive dampness. Avoid storing bottled water where it might be exposed to sunlight, instead keeping it in a cool, dry environment, such as a pantry.

    Once opened, bottled water containers should be stored in the refrigerator to inhibit bacterial growth. If using a bottled water dispenser, be sure to clean the dispenser unit often following the manufacturer’s recommended cleaning and sanitizing instructions.

  • Open Can you drink bottled water if the date on the bottle expired?

    Expiration dates are usually for freshness and do not necessarily mean that the product is unsafe to consume, assuming the food item has been properly handled and stored.

    To learn more about food product dating, view NSF’s guide to understanding expiration dates

  • Open What does NSF certification of bottled water cover?

    NSF certification involves annual, unannounced inspections of a company’s bottling facility covering every aspect of the bottling process from source to packaging. Production facilities are audited for good manufacturing practices as well as risk management systems to help ensure that the final product is safe. As part of the certification process, we extensively test product samples for over 160 impurities to confirm they meet applicable federal and/or state standards. NSF certification also helps ensure that products are labeled with the proper standard of identity for the type of water indicated on the label and that any added ingredients are properly disclosed.

    Look for the NSF mark on the product label or check the NSF online listings to see if your favorite bottled water brand is NSF certified.

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Consumer Products

  • Open How does NSF/ANSI 184 – Residential Dishwashers differ from NSF/ANSI 3 – Commercial Dishwashers?

    NSF/ANSI 3 establishes minimum design, construction, material and performance requirements for commercial dishwashers used in restaurants and other facilities subject to public health inspections, while NSF/ANSI 184 sets requirements for dishwashers used in a residential setting. Both standards require certified dishwashers to be able to reduce 99.999 percent of bacteria when operated on the sanitizing cycle.  However, the minimum final rinse temperature for residential dishwashers is 150° F, compared to 165° or 180°  F for commercial dishwashers.

    A list of residential dishwashers that are currently NSF certified can be found in our consumer products database, while a list of certified commercial dishwashers can be found in our commercial food equipment database.

  • Open Do NSF certified clothes washers have to heat water to a certain temperature to sanitize clothing?

    NSF Protocol P172 measures the antimicrobial efficacy of washing machines by determining whether the sanitary wash cycle is effective at removing 99.9 percent of bacteria from heavily contaminated cloth swatches from typical laundry loads.  The protocol does not evaluate the water or steam temperature per se, but rather evaluates the ability of the sanitization cycle to perform effectively.

    The sanitization cycle of a washer is dependent on the combination of many variables (e.g.  drum size, drum shape, heater wattage- if applicable, cycle time, cycle temperature, tumbling action, etc.). These variables can change from model to model and manufacturer to manufacturer as long as they perform effectively.

    A list of clothes washers that are currently NSF certified can be found in the NSF listings.

  • Open What temperature does an NSF certified dryer have to reach under Protocol P154?

    The NSF certified sanitary cycle designation does not specify a minimum temperature that a clothes dryer must achieve. Rather, machines are performance tested using three different organisms (S. aureus, K. pneumoniae and P. aeruginosa) which are added to test swatches and then dried with a typical load of laundry. To achieve certification, the clothes dryer must demonstrate a 99.9 percent reduction of bacteria during the sanitizing dry cycle with no significant carryover of these organisms to subsequent loads.

    A list of clothes dryers that are currently NSF certified can be found in the NSF listings.

  • Open What temperature does an allergen reducing clothes washer have to meet in order to be certified under NSF Protocol P351?

    NSF Protocol P351 requires a clothes washer to effectively reduce 95 percent of dust mite and feline dander during testing. This protocol also requires that the washer be able to heat the water temperature to at least 131° F for a minimum of three minutes.

    A list of clothes washers that are currently NSF certified to P351 can be found in the NSF listings.

  • Open Which kitchen appliances did NSF find to harbor the most germs?

    Because of NSF’s role in evaluating the cleanability of common kitchen tools and appliances used in the home, in 2013 our microbiologists analyzed 14 common kitchen items in several homes for the presence of four different types of microorganisms:  E. coli, Salmonella, yeast and mold, and Listeria.

    Our study found that many common kitchen appliances used to prepare food contained one or more of the organisms listed above, with refrigerator vegetable and meat compartments as well as blender gaskets being the germiest.

    Read more about this study, including what other kitchen items were found to contain potentially harmful microorganisms as well as recommended cleaning instructions for each item.

  • Open What other items in the home has NSF found to be a germ hot spot?

    If you thought that the bathroom is the germiest place in most homes, this isn’t always the case. In fact, in a 2011 NSF germ study, we discovered that the highest concentration of germs was found in the kitchen. Which items were the germiest? The kitchen sponge, kitchen sink and coffee maker reservoir were all found to contain bacteria or yeast and mold.

    Read more about this study, including what other items in a typical home were found to contain germs and how to make sure to keep them clean.

  • Open How does NSF evaluate food storage containers for home use?

    When evaluating food storage containers under NSF Protocol P386 – Food Storage Containers for Home Use, NSF’s public health specialists look at the design and construction of each container to make sure that it is easily cleanable and produced from food-safe materials. NSF also reviews product packaging and substantiates other marketing and label claims being made by the manufacturer.

    A list of food storage containers that are currently NSF certified can be found in the consumer products database.

  • Open How does NSF evaluate blenders for home use?

    When evaluating residential blenders for home use under NSF Protocol P388 – Blenders for Home Use, NSF looks at design, construction, durability, materials and cleanability of each product to ensure public health is being protected.  Cleanability is an important part of the certification process for all home products and especially blenders, as NSF discovered in its 2013 germ study that blenders that are not properly disassembled during cleaning can allow germs that can cause foodborne illness to build up around the gasket. NSF also checks labeling and packaging information and validates any marketing claims made by the manufacturer.

    A list of blenders that are currently NSF certified can be found in the consumer products database.

  • Open How does NSF evaluate coffee makers for home use?

    When evaluating residential coffee makers for home use, NSF confirms that each unit meets the strict criteria set forth in NSF Protocol P387 – Coffee Makers for Home Use. This protocol establishes product design, construction, materials and cleanability requirements. In addition, NSF also checks labeling and packaging information and validates any marketing claims being made for the product. As is the case with other home products, cleanability is an important part of the certification process, especially as NSF discovered in its 2011 germ study that coffee maker reservoirs that are not regularly cleaned can build up yeast and mold.

    A list of coffee makers that are currently NSF certified can be found in the consumer products database.

  • Open What is NSF’s Home Products Certification Program?

    After an independent research study revealed that more than half of American consumers are concerned about the safety and quality of cookware and other products used in their homes, NSF created the NSF Home Products Certification (HPC) Program. Developed in 2012, this program is based on, but separate from, NSF’s Commercial Food Equipment Program, which has been ensuring safe design and cleaning of appliances and tools used in commercial kitchens since the 1950s.

    Designed to help give consumers peace of mind as to the quality, durability and cleanability of many home products, the NSF HPC program covers food storage containers, cookware and bakeware as well as small appliances like coffee makers, slow cookers and blenders. The program also includes kitchen gadgets and utensils, flatware and cutlery, personal beverage containers, corded home textiles (heated blankets, pads and mattress pads), fans, space heaters and many other products.

    Visit the Home Product and Appliances section of the website to learn more about this program as well as to access a current list of NSF certified products for the home.

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Dietary Supplements

  • Open Why should I purchase NSF certified supplements?

    Many reports have been published showing that not all supplement products contain the ingredients or quantities shown on the label. In some cases, unlisted ingredients could pose a health risk, especially to those with allergies. To better protect yourself as a consumer, consider purchasing supplements that are NSF certified to contain the ingredients and quantities shown on the product label. Visit the NSF website for the full list of NSF certified supplements.

  • Open Which supplements do you recommend that I take?

    NSF certification helps ensure the product contains the ingredients and quantities shown on the label and that no unlisted ingredients or harmful impurities are present, but we are not able to offer product usage recommendations. For further guidance, please contact a trusted health care provider to discuss your potential use of dietary supplements.

  • Open Why aren't more dietary supplements NSF certified?

    Since product certification is voluntary, not all companies choose to pursue independent testing and certification, especially if their customers do not demand it before being willing to purchase their products. While financial reasons are sometimes a barrier for some companies, for many others certification is not obtainable either because the manufacturing facility has difficulty passing the GMP (good manufacturing practices) audit or there is a problem with the actual product.

    Not all products are able to pass the label claim testing portion of the certification process, meaning the nutrient content stated on the product label does not match what is actually in the product. Products can also fail if they have a heavy metal or microbial contamination or, in the case of sports supplements, if the product does not pass the banned substance portion of the testing.

    Visit the NSF website or www.nsfsport.com for a full list of NSF certified dietary and sport supplements.

  • Open Why should I check with a health care provider before taking supplements?

    As dietary supplements may not be totally risk-free under all circumstances, you may want to check with a health-care provider prior to using a specific dietary supplement. Some supplements can interact with certain prescription or over-the-counter medications, or could contain active ingredients that have strong biological effects and can cause adverse reactions in some people. Some supplements can also have unwanted effects during surgery. For these reasons, it’s important to fully inform your doctor about the vitamins, minerals, herbs or any other supplements you are taking, especially before surgery.

  • Open What types of products are classified as dietary supplements?

    Dietary supplements are not regulated or classified as drugs. Rather, a dietary supplement is a product taken by mouth that contains a “dietary ingredient” that is intended to supplement the diet. Products meeting this definition include vitamins, minerals, herbs, botanicals, amino acids and concentrates, metabolites, constituents and extracts of these substances.

  • Open Who ensures the safety of dietary supplements?

    Supplement manufacturers are responsible by law to ensure their products are safe before being marketed. In addition, manufacturers are responsible for determining the accuracy and truth of label claims. Unlike drug products that must be proven safe and effective for their intended use before marketing, dietary supplement products are not reviewed by the government before being made available to the consumer. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can take action against any unsafe dietary supplement product that reaches the market. If the FDA is able to prove that claims for a dietary supplement product are either false or misleading, they can take action against such products as well.

  • Open Does the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulate dietary supplements advertising?

    The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulates advertising (including infomercials) for dietary supplements and most other products sold to consumers. Advertising and promotional material received in the mail are subject to regulation by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

  • Open How does regulation of supplements differ from that of prescription or over-the-counter drugs?

    Dietary supplements are not classified as drugs, but rather fall under the general category of food products. Before marketing, drugs must undergo clinical studies to determine their effectiveness, safety, possible interactions with other substances and appropriate dosages. The U.S. FDA then reviews this data and determines whether to authorize use of the drugs. The FDA does not test dietary supplements or authorize their use prior to them being marketed.

  • Open How does regulation of supplements differ from that of prescription or over-the-counter drugs?

    Dietary supplements are not classified as drugs, but rather fall under the general category of food products. Before marketing, drugs must undergo clinical studies to determine their effectiveness, safety, possible interactions with other substances and appropriate dosages. The U.S. FDA then reviews this data and determines whether to authorize use of the drugs. The FDA does not test dietary supplements or authorize their use prior to them being marketed.

  • Open What kinds of claims can be made on dietary supplement labels?

    By law, manufacturers may make three types of claims for their dietary supplement products:

    Health Claims

    Disease or health claims show a link between a food or substance and a disease or health-related condition. Examples include:

    • Folic acid and a decreased risk of neural tube defect-affected pregnancy, if the supplement contains sufficient amounts of folic acid
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    • Calcium and a lower risk of osteoporosis, if the supplement contains sufficient amounts of calcium

    Structure/Function Claims

    Structure/function claims refer to the supplement’s effect on the body’s structure or function, including its overall effect on a person’s well-being. Examples include:

    • Calcium builds strong bones.
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    • Antioxidants maintain cell integrity.

    Structure/function claims are easy to spot, because the product label must contain the disclaimer, “This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.”

    Nutrient Content Claims

    Nutrient content claims describe the level of a nutrient in a food or dietary supplement. For example, a supplement containing at least 200 milligrams of calcium per serving could carry the claim “high in calcium.” A supplement with at least 12 mg per serving of vitamin C could state on its label, “excellent source of vitamin C.”

  • Open What type of information needs to be included on dietary supplement product labels?

    Under current U.S. law, labels on dietary supplement products must contain the following information:

    • Statement of identity
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    • Net quantity of contents
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    • Directions for use
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    • Supplement facts panel (listing the serving size, amount and active ingredient)
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    • Other ingredients in descending order of predominance and by common name or proprietary blend
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    • Name and place of business of manufacturer, packer or distributor (to contact for more product information)

    If a structure/function claim is being made, the label must also include the disclaimer: “This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.”

  • Open Are manufacturers required to list all ingredients on dietary supplement labels?

    The main ingredients are usually listed on the supplement facts panel, while other ingredients are listed in the “other ingredients” statement beneath the panel. The types of ingredients listed under “other ingredients” include the source of dietary ingredients, (e.g. rose hips as the source of vitamin C), other food ingredients (e.g. water) and any technical additives or processing aids (e.g. colors, preservatives or flavors).

  • Open What can I do to protect myself when purchasing dietary supplements?

    Always look for the NSF mark on the product label. This mark indicates that the product has been tested to ensure that it contains the ingredients and quantities listed on the label and that no unlisted ingredients or potentially harmful levels of impurities are present in the product. In addition, understand that a claim that a product is “all natural” is not a guarantee that the product is safe.

    Avoid products with label claims that the supplement is a new treatment or cure for a specific disease or condition. No companies are authorized under current federal regulations to make such claims for dietary supplements. You can report supplements making such claims to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

     

  • Open What should I do if I suspect I've become ill due to using a dietary supplement?

    If you suspect you have suffered a harmful effect or illness that you think is related to use of a dietary supplement, contact your health care provider. He or she can report the matter to FDA MedWatch by calling 1-800-FDA-1088 or going on the MedWatch website for health care providers. Patient names are kept confidential. Individuals can also call the toll-free MedWatch number or go to the MedWatch website for consumers to report an adverse reaction.

  • Open What does it mean when a product claims to be NSF Certified for Sport®?

    Products that are specifically targeted for use by athletes are eligible for review under the NSF Certified for Sport® program. In addition to meeting all requirements for good manufacturing practices (GMPs) and NSF/ANSI Standard 173 for content and labeling, products are also reviewed to ensure they do not contain substances banned by most major athletic organizations. Like all NSF certification programs, ongoing monitoring ensures products continue to comply with all requirements to maintain product certification.

    Visit the NSF Certified for Sport® website for a full list of NSF certified sport supplements.

  • Open Is NSF GMP registration the same as NSF product certification?

    GMP registration is for a facility and involves onsite audits of a production operation to verify the facility is observing good manufacturing practices established for their industry. At this level, NSF does not conduct testing on the products produced at the facility nor confirms their compliance with American National Standards for content or labeling. Companies interested in seeking product certification can have samples of their products evaluated to determine if they meet NSF/ANSI 173. This American National Standard limits the amount of impurities that can be present in both raw ingredients and finished products, and requires that the ingredients and quantities shown on the label match what is in the product. Products that are determined to meet the requirements of NSF/ANSI 173 can display the NSF mark on the product label.

  • Open Are products manufactured in an NSF GMP registered facility considered to be certified?

    GMP registration does not apply to individual products. Rather, it is a facility certification that involves regular onsite audits of a company’s production operation to verify that it observes good manufacturing practices (GMP) established for the industry. No testing is conducted as part of the GMP audit on any products produced at the facility. Companies follow a separate certification process to verify that products contain the ingredients/quantities shown on the label and are free of banned substances.

  • Open Can I take fish oil while pregnant?

    If you are considering taking a supplement, it’s important to contact a trusted health care advisor to discuss whether the supplement is right for you, especially if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant.

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Drinking Water Treatment

  • Open If a product claims to use NSF certified components, is that the same as being NSF certified?

    No. Component testing is generally limited to a review of a filter cartridge, housing or membrane for either structural integrity or material safety. In general, no performance testing is conducted on components, but rather on finished systems, i.e. a filter cartridge or membrane inside of a housing.

    If you are concerned about a product’s contaminant reduction capability, contact the manufacturer to ask who tested the system for performance and then contact that organization to verify if the system was tested and certified to be effective against the contaminants it claims to reduce. A searchable database of NSF certified water treatment systems is available online.

  • Open Does NSF test for BPA in home water treatment systems?

    All NSF certified water treatment systems undergo material safety testing as well as performance testing for reduction of impurities. Because American National Standards do not prohibit the use of BPA in plastics used to construct water treatment systems, consumers need to contact the manufacturer directly to ascertain whether an ingredient such as BPA is used. If BPA is used in any water treatment product that NSF tests, we conduct a material safety test to ensure that this compound and any others that might be introduced by the system are not present at unsafe levels in the treated water.

  • Open How can I determine how much of each contaminant a water filter reduces?

    Performance testing of home water treatment systems is done on a pass/fail basis. To earn certification for reduction of a specific contaminant, a product must be able to reduce that contaminant by the minimum amount shown in the applicable American National Standard. For example, to be certified for lead reduction under NSF/ANSI 53, a product must be able to reduce 150 ppb of lead to less than 10 ppb in the filtered water.

    For exact percentage reductions achieved by an individual system, please check directly with the manufacturer.

  • Open How can I reduce the lead in my drinking water?

    Access our database of NSF certified water treatment systems and select Lead Reduction from the third, fifth or sixth group of contaminants. If you are looking for a specific product style, you can use the Product Type dropdown box near the bottom of the page to narrow your search to the desired style.

    Although no whole-house systems are currently NSF certified for treatment of lead, many certified systems can be installed at the main drinking water source in a home, usually the kitchen sink. Systems that are NSF certified for lead reduction are verified to reduce 150 ppb (0.150 mg/L) of lead to less than 10 ppb (0.010 mg/L) in the treated water.

  • Open How can I reduce arsenic in my drinking water?

    Access our database of NSF certified water treatment systems and select one of the Arsenic Reduction claims that appear in the third, fifth or sixth group of contaminants. Although no whole-house systems are currently NSF certified for treatment of arsenic, those systems that are certified for this purpose can be installed at the main drinking water source in a home, usually the kitchen sink.

    Many home water treatment systems are certified only for reduction of arsenic-5 (pentavalent arsenic). If you are unsure which type of arsenic is present in your water and choose a product certified to reduce arsenic-5 only, you may want to test a sample of the water produced by the system to ensure successful arsenic reduction. If you’re arsenic-5 certified system does not significantly reduce your arsenic level, it could mean you have arsenic-3 in your well water. Arsenic-3 can be converted to arsenic-5 through the installation of a chlorinator.

  • Open Are any water treatment systems certified to reduce uranium?

    Currently, no systems are specifically NSF certified to reduce uranium. However, many reverse osmosis systems (RO) and salt-based water softeners are certified to reduce a by-product of decaying uranium known as radium 226/228. Systems certified for reduction of radium may also be effective at reducing uranium. To confirm how much uranium is being reduced with your specific system, please have a sample of the treated water tested by a state-accredited laboratory.

    A list of water treatment systems that are NSF certified for radium reduction can be found in the NSF listings.

  • Open Are there any water treatment systems certified to reduce pharmaceutical drug residues?

    Yes. A new American National Standard known as NSF/ANSI 401 – Emerging Contaminants and Incidental Compounds was developed in 2013.  This standard establishes testing procedures to help verify the effectiveness of different types of water treatment systems to reduce up to 15 compounds like pharmaceuticals, over-the-counter drugs and new types of pesticides as well as chemicals used as flame retardants and detergents. A list of products that are currently NSF certified to meet this standard can be found on NSF’s drinking water listings page.

    Emerging contaminants are a new category of water quality concerns for which evidence of health effects has not yet been established, but which consumers are concerned about. Additional information can be found on the NSF/ANSI 401 web page.

  • Open Where can I buy a replacement filter for my water system?

    As an independent certification organization, NSF would not be involved in the manufacture or sale of any of the products that we certify nor their replacement components. Please contact the manufacturer of your water treatment system directly to find out where replacement filters are sold for your specific unit.

    To ensure ongoing performance, it is important to always use the correct manufacturer’s replacement cartridge identified in the owner’s manual. Failure to do so could result in the system leaking or not reducing contaminants effectively.

  • Open Which water treatment system is rated the best?

    Since no product can protect against all impurities, it isn’t possible to easily rate or compare water treatment systems. Instead, the focus of NSF’s certification program is to evaluate samples of a company’s products to confirm they meet applicable American National Standards for design and construction, as well as to verify if the product can reduce the contaminants claimed by the manufacturer. In addition, we review product literature and packaging to ensure accurate information about the product is provided.

    To help ensure you are selecting the right product, it’s important to research the quality of your incoming water supply to understand which contaminants are present or if there are any contaminants present that could pose a health issue to your family members. Once you have put together your list of contaminant reduction needs, you can then use NSF’s online database to see if any water treatment systems are certified to address those issues.

  • Open What does NSF certification of home water treatment systems cover?

    NSF certification of home water treatment covers four major areas:

    Structural integrity. Systems (and some components such as housings) intended for direct connection to a water service undergo pressure testing to confirm they won’t crack or leak when installed on a pressurized water line.

    Material safety. Certified systems (and components such as filter media and housings) undergo extraction testing to determine if they introduce any impurities into the water that could pose a health risk. American National Standards limit the amount of impurities that certified systems can introduce based on U.S. EPA or Health Canada drinking water standards, whichever is more strict.

    Performance testing. We test assembled systems to verify that the finished product is effective at reducing the contaminants claimed on the product label. Testing is done on a pass/fail basis.

    Label claims. We also verify the accuracy of product packaging and labeling to confirm it does not contain any untrue or misleading statements. We verify that percentage reduction claims on the product packaging match our official test results.

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Food Safety

  • Open What is the biggest food safety danger at holiday gatherings?

    One of the biggest dangers at holiday gatherings is the tendency to lose track of time and let food sit out at room temperature for more than two hours, which can promote the growth of bacteria. Whether you are serving a buffet or traditional sit-down meal, follow these guidelines so that food stays safe:

    1. Don’t let foods sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Keep track of how long foods have been sitting on the table and discard any perishable foods that have been sitting out for two hours or more.
    2.  
    3. Hot foods should be held at 140° F or warmer. Use chafing dishes, slow cookers and warming trays to help keep foods warm if necessary.
    4.  
    5. Cold foods should be held at 40° F or colder. Keep foods cold by nesting dishes in bowls of ice.
    6.  
    7. Always serve food on clean plates. Replace empty platters rather than add fresh food to a dish that already had food in it.
  • Open Once meat has thawed, how soon must you cook it?

    Meat that is thawed in the refrigerator should be cooked within two to three days from its removal from the freezer. Meat that was thawed in cold water or in the microwave should be cooked right away.

  • Open How long can foods be safely left out of the refrigerator?

    Perishable cooked foods should be placed in the refrigerator or freezer within two hours of being cooked, or one hour on very hot days (those over 90° F). To help speed cooling, divide larger quantities of food into several smaller, shallow containers.

  • Open Is it okay to put hot foods directly into the refrigerator?

    Although a properly operating refrigerator should be able to handle the placement of hot foods inside, you can help promote cooling by separating large quantities of leftovers into small containers, leaving lids slightly ajar until the food has fully cooled.

  • Open To what temperature should foods be reheated so that they are safe to eat?

    Previously cooked foods, including foods containing previously cooked ingredients, need to be reheated until the internal temperature reaches at least 165° F.

  • Open What is the best way to defrost frozen foods?

    Never try to thaw frozen foods at room temperature, as this could allow dangerous bacteria to grow on the food surfaces as they warm. Instead, use one of the following methods to safety thaw food:

    In the refrigerator - If using a refrigerator, place the food in a container on the lowest shelf so that raw juices cannot drip on to other foods.

    In cold water -  If using cold water to thaw food such as a turkey, place the wrapped turkey in a large pan with cool water, replacing the water every 30 minutes until the food is thawed.

    In the microwave -  Many uncooked frozen foods can also be thawed in the microwave. However, only use the microwave method if you plan to immediately cook the food.

  • Open Can uncooked meat be refrozen?

    Uncooked meat that was properly thawed in the refrigerator and whose internal temperature never exceeded 41° F can usually be refrozen. If you thawed the frozen meat in the microwave or otherwise started cooking the meat, you must complete the cooking process, and then freeze any unused meat portions for later use. You should never partially cook and then re-freeze raw meats.

  • Open What's the best way to package leftovers for food safety and preservation?

    The most important thing when packaging leftovers is to get them down to a safe storage temperature as quickly as possible. If you don’t plan to eat the leftovers within three days, it’s best to freeze them. Storing leftovers in vacuum-sealed containers can help prevent freezer burn, while using tightly sealed containers in the refrigerator can help prevent accidental spillage as well as reduce the chance that odors from other foods will affect the food’s quality.

  • Open Is it okay to use my sanitizing dishwasher during a boil water alert?

    As dishwashers do not heat water to the boiling point, but rather usually to somewhere between 145° F and 160° F, it’s best not to use them during a boil water alert. While exposing dishes to such temperatures for a pre-determined period is known to be sufficient to achieve sanitization of dishes when the incoming water supply is potable, no testing is conducted to determine how effective they might be when the incoming water supply has been deemed unsafe for consumption.

  • Open Are cookware products with coatings safe to use?

    NSF certification of cookware involves a thorough review to ensure the product meets voluntary American National Standards for design, construction, materials and cleanability. The materials used on the interior surfaces of the cookware must meet U.S. standards for direct contact with food. Cookware with coatings also undergoes abrasion testing to ensure the coatings will not flake off and adulterate food.

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Miscellaneous

  • Open Where can I purchase a product that I saw on your website?

    NSF International does not manufacture, sell or distribute products. As an independent certification organization, we evaluate samples of products to determine whether they meet voluntary standards for protection of public health. If you are interested in purchasing a product that appears on the NSF website or that claims to have NSF certification, please contact the product’s manufacturer directly for assistance in locating a supplier.

  • Open Where can I get a certificate confirming a product is NSF certified?

    NSF International doesn’t issue certificates or other documents as proof of NSF certification for most individual products. Rather, proof of NSF certification is provided by listing the product on our website. Because certification is an ongoing process that must be renewed annually, our online listings can change daily.

  • Open Where can I get an MSDS for a product I saw on your website?

    NSF International would not be able to provide a material safety data sheet (MSDS) for any product that we evaluate. Please contact the product manufacturer directly for assistance. Contact information for manufacturers with NSF certified or registered products is provided in the NSF online listings.

  • Open How does certification differ from product testing?

    NSF certification helps verify that a product meets voluntary national standards for protection of public health. Depending on the product, this can range from testing for material safety (e.g. plumbing-related products) to content (e.g. dietary supplements) to performance (e.g. home water treatment systems). Unlike product testing, certification is not a one-time event. Rather, it is an ongoing process that involves audits of a company’s production facility along with regular testing of product samples to confirm their continued compliance with the most current version of the applicable American National Standard.

  • Open Do you certify manufacturers or products?

    In most cases, NSF International certifies individual products, not manufacturers. As a result, not all products produced by a single manufacturer may be NSF certified. In addition, if a company produces the same product at multiple locations, the products produced at each production facility undergo a separate review and certification. This is why you may see multiple facility locations for the same product in the NSF online listing.

    In addition to product testing services, NSF also offers facility registration services to help manufacturers verify compliance with a wide array of production standards, including good manufacturing practices (GMPs). Facility registrations do not include product testing, so the products produced at registered facilities are not considered NSF certified unless they undergo separate testing.

  • Open Does NSF certify products like food equipment for electrical or fire safety?

    NSF/ANSI food equipment standards do not have provisions to address issues related to mechanical, electrical or fire safety. Rather, NSF certification addresses sanitation and food safety aspects. Check with the product manufacturer to determine if the product has been reviewed for non-sanitation concerns.

  • Open Where can I find spare parts for my NSF certified product?

    As an independent certification organization, NSF International would not be involved in the manufacture or sale of any products that display our certification mark. Rather, the presence of our mark on a product means that it meets applicable American National Standards for protection of public health.

    If you need replacement parts for an NSF certified product, please contact the manufacturer directly for assistance. Contact information for manufacturers of NSF certified products is available online. If a product is produced overseas and you are having difficulty contacting the manufacturer directly, check your owner’s manual or contact the store where you purchased the product to see if they might be able to offer assistance.

  • Open Is it possible to get existing equipment NSF certified?

    It isn’t possible to certify equipment already being used in the field. Certification is a process that starts at the factory level and includes both a facility audit as well as testing of individual samples of each product being considered for certification to determine if the product complies with the design, construction, material, cleanability and performance requirements of applicable American National Standards. While it is possible to conduct a field inspection of some types of products like food equipment, such an inspection would not result in certification of the equipment.

  • Open Where can I view a copy of an NSF/ANSI standard?

    Copies of the American National Standards on which many NSF certification programs are based are available for purchase from organizations like the American National Standards Institute or Techstreet. NSF standards that are referenced in U.S. federal laws and regulations are available at no cost on NSF’s website under the tab Free Access Standards. NSF International does not sell copies of any standards.

    Companies interested in pursuing NSF certification are welcome to contact the NSF business development office at globalbusiness@nsf.org or via phone at +1 800.673.6275. A list of products that are currently NSF certified can be found online.

  • Open What do the letters NSF stand for?

    The letters in our organization’s name do not represent any specific words today. NSF International was founded in 1944 as the National Sanitation Foundation. The name of our organization was changed to NSF International in 1990 when the National Sanitation Foundation and NSF Testing Labs merged. A brief history of the NSF organization is available on our website.

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Organic

  • Open What does the term organic mean?

    Organic refers to how a product is produced, i.e. without using conventional pesticides, irradiation or fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or bioengineering. For example, organic meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products can only be produced from animals that are not given antibiotics or growth hormones and are fed 100 percent organic feed. Organic doesn’t necessarily mean that a product is free of something, but rather that it has been produced without using prohibited methods.

  • Open Can products imported from other countries be certified organic under U.S. standards?

    The USDA allows agricultural products grown outside the U.S. to be sold as organic in the U.S. provided they meet the stringent requirements of the National Organic Program (NOP) and are certified by a USDA-accredited certifier. Foreign companies that grow and process organic products for sale in the U.S. must meet the same requirements as U.S.-based organic farmers, including undergoing onsite audits by a USDA-accredited certifying agent (ACA) to confirm that the organic practices detailed in the company’s documentation are actually occurring at the site and that they comply with NOP requirements. The USDA has ACAs in many countries outside the U.S. that help verify requirements of the NOP are being met, and NSF works with these certifiers to help ensure that organic food is truly organic.

  • Open Are organic products completely free of pesticide residues?

    Although certified organic products must be grown, processed and handled according to strict standards without the use of pesticides or other synthetic chemicals, it is possible for organic crops to be inadvertently exposed to agricultural chemicals, such as those present in rain or ground water, or in soil previously used for non-organic farming. To help limit the impact of non-organic agricultural practices, National Organic Program (NOP) standards set strict requirements, including requiring buffer zones between conventional and organic growing fields and storage of organic products above conventional products on shelves to avoid cross contamination.

  • Open Are products certified as organic also GMO free?

    To bear an organic label in the U.S., a product needs to have been grown, processed and handled from farm to shelf in accordance with USDA National Organic Program (NOP) regulations. While the NOP specifically prohibits the use of genetic engineering or genetically modified organisms in conjunction with organic food, it is possible for an organic crop to be exposed to GMOs from drift (such as wind pollination, birds or bees) or other natural forces beyond the control of the organic farmer. To help limit the impact of non-organic farming practices, NOP regulations require organic farmers to follow practices such as creating buffer zones between their own farms and neighboring farms that use conventional farming methods.

  • Open What does certified organic really mean?

    For a product to be certified organic in the U.S., the operations that produce the organic agricultural ingredients, the handlers of these agricultural ingredients and the manufacturer of the final product must all be certified by a USDA-accredited organic certifying agent. The National Organic Program (NOP) requires that organic products be grown or handled according to strict standards without the use of pesticides or other synthetic chemicals, irradiation, fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or bioengineering. Only those substances on the NOP’s approved list can be used. Organic meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products must come from animals that are not given antibiotics or growth hormones and are fed 100 percent organic feed. Other organic products certified under USDA standards, including personal care products, must not only be produced from organic ingredients, but the production processes and specifications used in the product’s development must all meet NOP requirements.

  • Open What types of products can become certified organic?

    Any agricultural product that meets certification requirements may be considered organic. Organic products can include foods ranging from canned products to fresh produce, meats, poultry and bakery products, to beverages including juices and milk, to dietary supplements and even personal care products.

  • Open What's the difference between “organic” and “made with organic” label claims?

    Products labeled as “100 percent organic” can only contain organically produced ingredients and processing aids (excluding water and salt). If the label says “organic,” the organic content must be at least 95 percent by weight (excluding water and salt). If the label says “made from organic ingredients,” the product must contain between 70 and 95 percent organic content. Products containing less than 70 percent organic content cannot use the term organic anywhere on the principal display panel.

  • Open Are products labeled "all natural" the same as "organic?"

    The term “natural” generally means a product has been minimally processed or is free from synthetic ingredients. It doesn’t mean that the producers or handlers of the ingredients and/or finished product have been audited by an organic accrediting agency to confirm compliance with USDA National Organic Program standards. Other claims such as “free-range,” “hormone-free” and “all natural” can appear on product labels and should likewise not be confused with the term organic.

  • Open Can personal care products make organic label and marketing claims?

    If personal care products meet the requirements of the National Organic Program (NOP), they may be certified to the USDA standard.

    Personal care products that are not 100 percent organic but that contain organic ingredients can possibly be certified under NSF/ANSI 305: Organic Personal Care Products Containing Organic Ingredients. This standard has very specific requirements for organic ingredient, material, process and production specifications. NSF/ANSI 305 allows for some limited chemical processing necessary to create personal care products. For example, soaps containing organic ingredients are permitted to undergo chemical processing known as saponification, without which these products would not lather. NSF/ANSI 305 requires that certified products state the exact percentage of organic content on the label.

  • Open How are organic eggs certified?

    For eggs to be certified organic, the chickens producing the eggs must be raised as organic from the second day of life. For their entire lifetime they must be given feed that has been certified 100 percent organic—no genetically modified or medicated foods are allowed. Any bedding materials that could be consumed by the chickens (e.g.. hay) must be organically grown as well. Animal drugs such as hormones and antibiotics are not permitted. Through onsite audits, the organic certifier ensures that all NOP regulations are being met, including confirming that the chickens have access to the outdoors as seasonally appropriate. NOP regulations do allow for short periods of temporary confinement, such as when there is reason for concern from predators or extreme weather conditions.

  • Open What is the shelf life of most organic products?

    Although organic certification doesn’t address the shelf life of a product, it does confirm that the organic product was grown, processed and handled in accordance with USDA National Organic Program (NOP) requirements.  Generally, shelf life estimates and storage recommendations are set by the manufacturers of each product or ingredient based on their experience with their specific products.

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Plumbing

  • Open Will products that are FDA approved also meet NSF/ANSI 61 requirements?

    Although the FDA doesn’t approve products, it does set standards for materials that come into contact with foods and beverages. When a company claims that its materials are FDA approved, it is most likely trying to indicate that its product is produced from materials that comply with FDA regulations for a specific end use, such as for contact with a beverage like juice or milk. This is not the same as NSF/ANSI 61 certification, which is based on EPA drinking water regulations. Under NSF/ANSI 61, products and materials undergo extraction testing to determine if any impurities are being introduced that could cause drinking water to become unsafe for consumption. The maximum allowed concentrations of impurities are based on U.S. EPA and/or Health Canada limits, whichever is stricter.

  • Open Are any household bleach products NSF certified for treating drinking water?

    Currently, there isn’t an easy way to distinguish which household-type bleach products are NSF certified under NSF/ANSI Standard 60. All NSF certified bleach products are grouped together under the chemical name Sodium hypochlorite on the NSF website.

    To find possible household bleach products, scan the list for those that are 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite. You can then contact the company or check its website to see if its bleach products are sold at the retail level.

  • Open Does NSF test fluoride and other treatment chemicals for effectiveness?

    Many years ago at the request of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), NSF worked with various public health and regulatory agencies to develop a standard for chemicals commonly used in the treatment of drinking water to help limit the potential introduction of impurities from these products. What resulted was NSF/ANSI Standard 60: Drinking Water Treatment Chemicals. While this American National Standard does not address the effectiveness of additives, it does establish requirements that limit the potential introduction of impurities from such products. Product users are responsible for ensuring that the product is achieving the desired end result.

  • Open Would H1 registration be equivalent to NSF/ANSI 60 certification?

    NSF H1 registration involves a review of a product’s formulation to determine if it meets U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requirements for use in food processing areas. No physical testing is performed to determine the product’s suitability for use in treating drinking water for human consumption. In contrast, NSF/ANSI Standard 60 requires actual exposure of products to drinking water to determine if the product introduces any impurities that might exceed allowed levels.

  • Open Are plastic pipes safe for drinking water use?

    Before using, it’s important to confirm that any pipe used in contact with drinking water be certified for compliance with NSF/ANSI 61. This American National Standard was developed at the request of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish testing procedures for products and to limit the amount of impurities that pipes, faucets and other plumbing system components might introduce into drinking water.

    A list of NSF certified pipe products is available online at www.nsf.org/certified/pwscomponents as well as www.nsf.org/certified/plumbing. In the second database, use the Product Use menu to narrow your search to Potable Water - Pipe and Fittings (EXPW) and then select the desired material type from the appropriate menu.

     

  • Open Do products that claim to be lead free contain any lead?

    Beginning in January 2014, the lead content standards for plumbing products sold in the U.S. will be revised to require compliance with a weighted average lead content of 0.25 percent across all 50 states. A handful of states already require this level.

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Pools

  • Open Is copper ionization an effective method to disinfect pool water?

    Several companies have earned NSF certification for their disinfection systems, including copper or copper/silver ionization systems, ozone generators and ultraviolet disinfection systems. Search for NSF certified pool disinfection systems in the NSF online listings.

    Under NSF/ANSI 50, copper and copper/silver ionization systems are intended for supplemental disinfection of pool/spa water and need to be used in conjunction with small amounts of chlorine or bromine as indicated in the official listing for each product.

  • Open Does NSF have any sizing guidelines for salt generators?

    Annex I of NSF/ANSI 50 contains sizing guidelines for salt generators. The 2011 version of this standard recommends that salt generators be capable of producing no less than 3 pounds of chlorine per day/10,000 gallons for pools and 3 pounds per day/1,000 gallons for spas.

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Wastewater

  • Open How do I choose a composting toilet for a small on-farm office?

    The three types of composting toilet systems covered by NSF/ANSI 41 include:

    Day use park - Day-use park systems are intended for use in day parks, roadside stops and other similar settings where the percentage of urine events is estimated to be six times greater than the number of fecal events. Performance testing is conducted based on the number of total uses per day, not on the number of individual users.

    Residential use - These systems are generally intended for use in a home setting. Performance testing is conducted based on the assumption that the toilet will be used for an average of four urine events and 1.2 fecal events per day per household member.

    Cottage - These systems are intended for intermittent use in a cabin or cottage setting. Performance testing is based on the same event criteria per household member as for residential use units, but with the assumption that the unit will be used on average two consecutive days per week rather than seven.

    Search for companies that produce NSF certified composting toilets in the NSF online listings (by selecting Non-Liquid Saturated Treatment Systems (NSF/ANSI Standard 41) from the Product Standard dropdown menu.

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