Materials that are intended to be consumed are commonly classified into three categories: pharmaceutical grade, human grade, and feed grade.
The reason for this classification system is that while many people think it’s easy to prepare completely pure products, in actual practice even the most highly purified product is likely to contain some impurities.
Every attempt to purify the product costs more in time and money and has less impact on the purity of the product. Getting a product from 98.5% purity to 99.0% purity can cost exponentially more than getting a product from 90.0% purity to 98.5% purity.
In recognition of these practical difficulties, this three-tiered system is used to describe the degree of purity of the product.
Feed Grade and Human Grade
There is no strict legal definition of “feed grade” or “human grade” raw materials. The FDA requires all raw ingredients and finished products that are intended to be fed to animals or humans be safe to eat, be produced under sanitary conditions, and be truthfully labelled.
The USDA is also involved in regulating the quality of and safety of ingredients that can be fed to humans.
Generally speaking, human-grade foods and raw ingredients have passed USDA inspection and standards as safe to be fed to humans.
Feed-grade either does not meet minimal USDA standards, has not been inspected, or has failed USDA inspection but does comply with FDA standards for foodstuffs.
The term “pharmaceutical grade” does have a strict legal definition. It refers to compounds and raw ingredients that have met strict standards for purity and processing conditions. These standards are established by the US Pharmacopeia (USP).
An ingredient that is pharmaceutical grade has been verified by an outside agency (not the ingredient’s manufacturer) to be at least 99% pure.
The manufacturing processes and facilities used to produce the product are regularly inspected by the USP to ensure they meet strict standards for quality control.
Random samples are taken of the products and tested to ensure that quality control and purity is maintained over time.
A pharmaceutical grade supplement is guaranteed to be what it says it is. Even low levels of contamination can cause a human-grade product to be deadly to someone with a severe allergy.
Since many people consume the same supplement every day for long periods of time, consuming a human-grade supplement daily may expose the user to risks from contaminants. This risk is not present when consuming pharmaceutical grade supplements.
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