What is NSF certification and when is it necessary? (2022)

Most of us have seen the mark of NSF emblazoned on supplements, water bottles, and consumer wares. Those white letters in a blue circle signal that a product is NSF certified—but what does that actually mean?

NSF certifications are distributed by NSF International, a third-party organization that independently tests a wide range of products to uphold quality and safety standards. They audit ingredients, manufacturing processes, label claims, and more.

Their business is to test the products and services of other businesses, as well as set standards for safety and quality. That’s how NSF International makes money.

What does NSF certification entail? What products does NSF certify? And is the certification worth it? That’s what we’ll cover in today’s blog.

What Is NSF Certification?

NSF certification is a third-party seal of approval administered by NSF International. The certification indicates that a product or service complies with predetermined standards of quality, safety, and sanitation.

NSF, by the way, stands for “National Sanitation Foundation”. It was founded in 1944 at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health with the initial purpose of standardizing food safety requirements.

NSF has since expanded beyond the United States, officially rebranding itself as NSF International in 1990. Today, NSF International leaves a sasquatch-sized footprint, operating in 165,000 square feet of laboratory space, stretching its reach across more than 150 countries around the world.

(Video) What is NSF Certification? Is it needed for my Shave Ice Machine?

NSF Standard Setting

Standard setting is an important part of the NSF’s business. To set a new standard (for say, water quality), the NSF assembles a group of industry leaders, public health officials, and user representatives. After reviewing all the relevant details—including NSF laboratory data—the committee then casts ballots. Eventually, a new standard is born.

The first NSF standards governed soda fountain and kitchen equipment sanitation. Since then, the NSF has created over 80 American National Standards in safety and health. (In the US, standard setting runs through the American National Standards Institute, another third party organization).

Once a standard is passed, companies who wish to remain NSF-certified must comply with that standard. And it’s not an honor system—the NSF sends employees to check-in on an annual basis, at the least.

What Does The Certification Process Involve?

NSF International certifies a variety of products and services. These will be detailed in the next section, but, generally speaking, the certification process includes:

  • A comprehensive review of the formula, materials, and ingredients used in the products.
  • Laboratory testing of product materials to ensure safety, sanitation, and quality in line with regulatory standards.
  • A rigorous facilities audit for design, construction, and material safety.
  • A fee of $1,500 or more (depending on the specific certifications and number of products).

Once a product is NSF-certified, the verification process is repeated annually to ensure that nobody is incompliant.

What Products Does NSF Certify?

The NSF started out by certifying commercial food equipment. Today, they do much more. Here are the main areas certified by NSF International:

#1: Commercial Foodservice Products

NSF’s first project? To develop sanitation standards for soda fountains and luncheon equipment. This purview has expanded to refrigerators, pots, pans, and most other equipment you’d find in a kitchen.

(Video) NSF/ANSI Certification | What is it, and Why is it Important?

Being NSF-certified in this space is primarily a mark of sanitation. It’s an assurance that:

  • The product is disinfected of food borne pathogens.
  • Harmful chemicals like lead or arsenic won’t be found in your food or drink.
  • The manufacturer only uses FDA approved materials.
  • The product is dishwasher safe.

Some states, like Nevada, require that all commercial kitchens use NSF-certified products. Other cities and municipalities have similar requirements.

#2: Water

Safe drinking water is a basic human need. Safe bathing water doesn’t hurt, either. NSF International certifies both.

NSF Water Expertise

  • Bottled water
  • Municipal water systems
  • Pools and spas
  • Plumbing products
  • Water treatment systems
  • And much more

The NSF’s bottled water certification, for instance, involves microbiological, chemical, and radiological analysis to ensure the water is up to snuff. All that laboratory space isn’t just for show!

#3: Supplements

The supplement industry is largely unregulated. Because of this, it’s hard to know what’s actually inside a given product. Is the label telling the truth?

That’s why NSF created the NSF/ANSI 173 certification. This certification verifies the composition of supplements for vitamins, minerals, herbs, botanicals, amino acids, sports supplements, concentrates, metabolites, constituents and extracts. Basically, whatever's on the label is tested for.

(Video) NSF Certification Explained - Gnarly Nutrition

What about banned substances in pro sports? (Major League Baseball, anyone?) That’s where the NSF’s sports certification comes in.

The Certified for Sport badge helps athletes and coaches select products that don’t contain banned substances, contaminants, or masking agents. It also ensures that what’s on the label is in the product. Finally, this certification is the only third-party certification program acknowledged by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), the MLB, and the NHL, among others.

#4: Foods and Beverages

Foods and beverages aren’t NSF-certified, per se, but you’re probably familiar with certifications like organic and non-GMO. Well, the NSF has certs for those, too. They provide independent verification services for label claims including:

  • Non-GMO. Have you seen the Non-GMO Project Verified butterfly seal? Over 60,000 products bear this mark that indicates a manufacturer has shirked genetically modified organisms. For their part, NSF guides companies through the complex process of becoming non-GMO verified.
  • Organic. The US organic market (food and non food) surpassed $55 billion in 2019. NSF verifies products to the USDA’s National Organic Program (the recognizable green and white organic label), along with organic standards in Europe, Mexico, and Canada.
  • Gluten-free. For many people, avoiding gluten isn’t just a preference. NSF offers a specific gluten-free certification in compliance with the FDA’s gluten-free labeling rule.
  • Kosher, plant-based, and raised without antibiotics. All of these labels are mediated by NSF experts.

LMNT and NSF Certification

LMNTis not NSF-certified. Why not? Because our tasty electrolyte drink mix is considered a beverage, not a supplement. That’s why LMNT has a nutrition facts panel rather than a supplement panel. It’s not eligible for the official blue circle.

However, LMNT’s manufacturing facility is NSF certified. It’s actually a multi-certified manufacturer operating as a cGMP facility to produce the highest quality products.

This means that it meets GMP (good manufacturing practice) standards, and is regularly audited for safety, materials, and sanitation.

In other words, no harmful ingredients are sneaking into LMNT. What you see on the label is what you get.

(Video) What is NSF Certified? (Supplements)

Why Companies Seek NSF Certification

NSF certification is like having an impressive bullet point on your resume. It looks good to others. And others, in this case, are people who are considering purchasing your product.

This is likely the main reason why companies seek the NSF badge. Even if a company has proper safety standards and good manufacturing practices to begin with, they may want the added credibility and visibility of the blue and white circle.

The NSF certification ordeal also helps companies stay compliant with national and international standards. If a company is found to be in violation of these standards, that could end badly for both the business and its end users.

Simply put, the NSF provides an independent auditing service. They make sure everything looks good before the real inspectors come in.

Plus, NSF testers may catch a safety or sanitation concern that would otherwise go unnoticed, even by government regulators. Catching this early may well be worth the fee and hassle.

When is NSF Certification Necessary?

Should your business pursue NSF certification? That depends on your product and situation. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Credibility. NSF certification adds credibility in the eye of the consumer. This has value.
  • Cost. Can you afford the fee? If you’re just getting started, it might be steep.
  • Compliance. Are your facilities and ingredients in compliance with government regulations? NSF will make sure they are. One less thing to worry about.
  • Product type. Is your product even eligible? NSF doesn’t certify foods and beverages like it does supplements.

If you’re still unsure if getting NSF-certified makes sense for your business, check out their website at NSF.org to see where your product or service fits in. Think on it for a bit—then make an informed choice.

(Video) NSF Certification of Commercial Food Equipment - Explained by Ann Willems | Program Manager Europe

FAQs

What does it mean when something is NSF certified? ›

Products that earn NSF certification are said to be “NSF certified” or “NSF listed” and display the applicable NSF certification mark to show that they have been tested by one of today's most respected independent product testing organizations.

What does NSF mean in culinary? ›

Benefits of NSF Certification

The National Sanitation Foundation Institute is a sanitation and safety authority that certifies food equipment that is hygienically designed and built in accordance with U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) food safety and environmental health standards.

What is NSF International What is its significance? ›

NSF International is an independent public health and safety organization whose influence and stringent standards for developing public health regulations, certifying equipment and products, and educating people about public health reach around the globe.

Is NSF certification required? ›

NSF requires the most specified certification and is so widespread that just about every new kitchen or restaurant will require NSF-certified products. Health Codes. Depending on your local health codes, certain pieces of equipment will most likely need to be NSF certified.

How long does it take to get NSF certification? ›

If you meet all required criteria of the NSF/ANSI 455 standard(s) and NSF policies, you could be listed in as little as 4 months. But it could take up to 18 months to complete the entire process.

Is NSF certified food grade? ›

Ensuring accountability from farm to fork, the NSF is known as “The Most Trusted Name in Food Safety™.” Today, the NSF mark is the only certification that identifies food safe chemicals.

What equipment needs to be NSF certified? ›

Its standards put forth strict requirements for food equipment such as pantry units, counters, hoods, and sinks, as well as commercial warewashing, cooking, refrigeration, and ice-making equipment. Models that are NSF certified adhere to state, local, and federal laws.

How much does it cost to get a product NSF certified? ›

NSF Certification: $1,500-$2,500, depending on the number and types of products to be approved. The costs for this step will be provided to the client prior to any work being performed.

When did NSF certification start? ›

Our History. Our beginning: NSF was founded in 1944 as the National Sanitation Foundation. Using a transparent, consensus-based process, we developed our first standards for the sanitation of soda fountain and luncheonette equipment in the early 1950s.

What is equivalent to NSF? ›

UL also has a sanitation classification that is similar to the one set forth by NSF International. In many instances, products listed as UL Sanitation certified are acceptable alternatives to NSF Listed items during health inspections. Consult your local regulatory offices for further information.

What is NSF audit? ›

NSF testing, auditing and certification services assure suppliers, retailers, regulators and consumers that an independent organization has reviewed a product or system to comply with specific standards for safety, quality, sustainability or performance.

What is the purpose of the NSF organization Servsafe? ›

Organization that develops and publishes standards for sanitary equipment design. It also assesses and certifies that equipment has met these standards. Restaurant and foodservice managers should look for an NSF International Mark (or UL EPH product mark) on commercial foodservice equipment.

Is NSF reliable? ›

Independently Credible

In many cases, NSF standards are so trusted that health codes accept them, or even defer to them. In fact, the way NSF standards are created is through a process involving industry experts, health departments and other interested parties that are a part of an NSF Joint Committee.

Is NSF a regulatory agency? ›

The National Science Foundation promotes the progress of science and engineering through the support of research and education programs. The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent agency created by the National Science Foundation Act of 1950, as amended (42 U.S.C. 1861-1875).

Is NSF 61 required? ›

Overview. If you manufacture, sell or distribute water treatment or distribution products in North America, your products are required to comply with NSF/ANSI/CAN 61: Drinking Water System Components – Health Effects by most governmental agencies that regulate drinking water supplies.

What is NSF ANSI 60 certification? ›

NSF/ANSI 60: Drinking Water Treatment Chemicals – Health Effects is an American National Standard that establishes the minimum health-effects requirements for the chemicals, chemical contaminants and impurities that are directly added to drinking water from drinking water treatment chemicals.

What is the difference between NSF 60 and 61? ›

NSF/ANSI Standard 60 includes requirements for chemicals that are used to treat drinking water; Standard 61 includes requirements for all materials that come in contact with drinking water...

Is NSF recognized in Canada? ›

The American National Standard for drinking water system components, NSF/ANSI 61, has been updated with Canadian requirements and designated as a National Standard of Canada by the Standards Council of Canada (SCC).

Is gold standard NSF certified? ›

When it comes to quality and safety certifications for dietary supplements, NSF International is considered the gold standard.

Is NSF part of FDA? ›

It is the end user's responsibility to use each material in such a way that it is conforms to FDA rules. “Food safe” and “food contact safe” are generally understood to imply FDA compliant. NSF International, formerly the National Sanitation Foundation, is an independent, non-governmental organization.

Is NSF plastic food grade? ›

NSF is the organization that, among other things, certifies non-food products that are permitted for use in manufacturing or processing facilities.

What does a NSF seal certify? ›

NSF certification is a third-party seal of approval administered by NSF International. The certification indicates that a product or service complies with predetermined standards of quality, safety, and sanitation. NSF, by the way, stands for “National Sanitation Foundation”.

What is the difference between ETL and NSF? ›

The ETL listing mark means that the initial certification testing and follow up inspections are performed by Intertek; the UL listing mark means that the initial certification testing and follow up inspections are performed by Underwriters Laboratories (UL); the NSF listing mark means that the initial certification ...

When selecting equipment for food preparation area what characteristics need to be considered? ›

5 Key Factors to Consider When Choosing the Right Commercial Kitchen Equipment
  • Energy Efficiency. Most commercial kitchen appliances are highly energy-intensive. ...
  • Quality. Commercial kitchens are ever busy, with some running for hours on end. ...
  • Size. ...
  • Ease of Use and Maintenance. ...
  • Costs.
7 Jul 2021

What does NSF stand for UK? ›

National service frameworks (NSFs) were ten-year programmes for improving specific areas of health and social care. They set measurable goals within set time frames. They were only applicable to the NHS in England.

What is NSF certified water filter? ›

The NSF certification mark means the water filter has been tested for safety to help protect you and your family. Filter testing ensures that: It can remove specific contaminants. It won't leach contaminants into your drinking water.

Is National Science Foundation legit? ›

The National Science Foundation is a real government agency, the BBB said, but they will not contact you with money offers. “NSF won't reach out to individuals out of the blue with an offer of 'free' money,” said BBB of the Mid-South President Randy Hutchinson.

What does NSF A1 mean? ›

A: *A1 General cleaner on all surfaces in and around food processing areas, where its use is Cleaning Products General cleaners not intended for direct food contact. *A8. Degreaser or carbon remover for food cooking or smoking equipment, utensils, or.

What is the difference between NSF 51 and 61? ›

NSF-61 is the standard for “Drinking Water System Components-Health Effects”, and deals with materials and products used in contact with drinking water. NSF-51 is the standard for “Plastic Material and Components used in Food Equipment”, and deals with materials and products used in contact with foods and beverages.

What kind of certification is helpful for career advancement as a food scientist? ›

The CFS is the only global certification that provides talented science of food professionals a way to exemplify their dedication to the profession and their personal commitment to staying up to date on advancements in the industry.

How can I prepare for NSF audit? ›

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO PREPARE? There are no special preparations required for this inspection. All you need to do is to ensure that you have all correspondence received from NSF's program office available in preparation for this visit.

Who is a food safety auditor? ›

The Certified Food Safety and Quality Auditor (CFSQA) is a professional who understands the standards and principles of auditing a Food Safety and HACCP-based (or process-safety) system. A CFSQA uses various tools and techniques to examine, question, evaluate and report on that system's adequacy and deficiencies.

What are the 4 requirements for outside garbage containers Servsafe? ›

Outdoor Containers: place on surfaces that are smooth, durable, and nonabsorbent, like asphalt and concrete. Must be covered at all times and keep drain plugs in place. -Make sure the building is sound. No leaks, holes, or cracks.

What is the purpose of the NSF organization quizlet? ›

Organization that develops and publishes standards for sanitary equipment design. It also assesses and certifies that equipment has met these food service managers should look for an NSF International mark (or UL EPH product mark) on commercial foodservice equipment.

What does NSF 2 mean? ›

NSF/ANSI 2 establishes minimum food protection and sanitation requirements for the materials, design, fabrication, construction and performance of food handling and processing equipment (such as bakery, cafeteria, kitchen and pantry units) and other food handling and processing equipment (such as tables and components, ...

What kind of agency is the NSF? ›

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 "to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense..."

Does NSF mean food safe? ›

Ensuring accountability from farm to fork, the NSF is known as “The Most Trusted Name in Food Safety™.” Today, the NSF mark is the only certification that identifies food safe chemicals.

Is NSF reliable? ›

Independently Credible

In many cases, NSF standards are so trusted that health codes accept them, or even defer to them. In fact, the way NSF standards are created is through a process involving industry experts, health departments and other interested parties that are a part of an NSF Joint Committee.

What does a NSF seal certify? ›

NSF certification is a third-party seal of approval administered by NSF International. The certification indicates that a product or service complies with predetermined standards of quality, safety, and sanitation. NSF, by the way, stands for “National Sanitation Foundation”.

What is NSF certified water filter? ›

The NSF certification mark means the water filter has been tested for safety to help protect you and your family. Filter testing ensures that: It can remove specific contaminants. It won't leach contaminants into your drinking water.

What materials are NSF approved? ›

NSF Compliant Plastic Materials
  • 3A-Dairy Approved Plastic Materials.
  • Acrylic Plexiglass Products.
  • Acrylic & Polycarbonate - Transparent Plastics.
  • Adhesives, Cements, Glues.
  • Aircraft Refurbishment - Interiors.
  • Anodizing & Plating Tanks.
  • Anti-Ballistic Materials.
  • Aquarium Products.

Is NSF part of FDA? ›

It is the end user's responsibility to use each material in such a way that it is conforms to FDA rules. “Food safe” and “food contact safe” are generally understood to imply FDA compliant. NSF International, formerly the National Sanitation Foundation, is an independent, non-governmental organization.

Does NSF mean organic? ›

The NSF Organic label certifies that products are organic meaning grown and processed without the use of any synthetic chemicals or pesticides.

Is NSF a regulatory agency? ›

The National Science Foundation promotes the progress of science and engineering through the support of research and education programs. The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent agency created by the National Science Foundation Act of 1950, as amended (42 U.S.C. 1861-1875).

How much does it cost to get a product NSF certified? ›

NSF Certification: $1,500-$2,500, depending on the number and types of products to be approved. The costs for this step will be provided to the client prior to any work being performed.

When did NSF certification start? ›

Our History. Our beginning: NSF was founded in 1944 as the National Sanitation Foundation. Using a transparent, consensus-based process, we developed our first standards for the sanitation of soda fountain and luncheonette equipment in the early 1950s.

What is NSF audit? ›

NSF testing, auditing and certification services assure suppliers, retailers, regulators and consumers that an independent organization has reviewed a product or system to comply with specific standards for safety, quality, sustainability or performance.

What are NSF water standards? ›

NSF Standards for Drinking Water Treatment Units

NSF/ANSI Standard 42 covers POU and POE systems designed to reduce specific aesthetic or non-health-related contaminants (such as chlorine, taste and odor, and particulates) that may be present in public or private drinking water.

Are Brita filters NSF certified? ›

Brita - Complete Faucet Filter

Full system NSF Certified to Standards 42 and 53 & 401. Certified to reduce 97% of chlorine and over 60 other contaminants. Short filter life lasts 100 gallons.

What are NSF ratings? ›

NSF stands for National Sanitation Foundation. If a fitting or pipe is NSF rated it just means it has passed some standard or test procedure and is certified for use in a residential or commercial plumbing project.

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