Regarding the NSI bashing, perhaps there is more reason than has been revealed in this thread. An unrelated NSI product (turmeric) tested by the independent group consumerlab.com found that that herb exceeded the acceptable limit for lead (>18.70 mcg per day), although the actual lead content was not given. This was reported in consumerlab.com's 2/6/08 newsletter. I do buy things from Vitacost, but I am deeply concerned about the fact that when I questioned them about that particular issue, they completely ignored my email.
The only way I can envision Vitacost selling products at prices as low as they do--and I compare with Puritan's Pride (limited selection, but always high marks from consumerlab.com), Swanson, iHerb and others--is that they must be using Chinese sources. They have not answered my email queries about the source of their herbs. The fact that their "manufacturing" facility is in North Carolina is meaningless; the question is, where do the materials that they encapsulate originate? The first hit on Google just now for "pine bark extract bulk" gave me a company that sells Chinese bulk material for between $53 and $85 a kilo, depending on the quantity you want. It's reasonable to assume that Vitacost buys on the open market from sources like that. They are in business to make money; if source #1 is selling at $53 a kilo, and source #2 is selling at $100 a kilo, which one do you think they're going to buy--especially when they don't reveal source information to consumers.
I don't want to bash China, but I have actual lot analyses of several Chinese bee products from a few years ago that show unbelievably high levels of lead and mercury, and its other contaminated exports, such as ethylene glycol toothpaste and melamine pet products, as well as lead and cadmium contaminated toys and jewelery, makes one highly suspicious of anything originating there.
See also "Toxic heavy metals and undeclared drugs in Asian herbal medicines," abstract at sciencedirect.com
If you ever get a chance, watch CNN's special "Planet In Peril" from a couple of years ago; if you had seen that, you would probably never buy anything Chinese again. Separate from the heavy metal question is the question of pesticide contamination, neither of which seem to be of concern to the PROC's rulers. If you want to buy without paranoia, but deplete your wallet more rapidly, the Life Extension Foundation is very proud not to use Chinese sources. Supplement labels should be required to list country of origin and, if different, country of processing (if, say, an herb originates in China but the extract is made in Mexico, both countries need to be listed) of the ingredients.
I have no reason to believe that Vitacost's products that contain trademarked materials, like pycnogenol, are anything other than what they purport to be, and I feel confident buying them (I think.) That heavy metal issue I mentioned was 2 years ago, and logic would dictate that Vitacost must be paranoid about the issue recurring, and if anyone with a mind had any power at that company, surely they would have instituted some kind of safeguard, although intelligence doesn't always make it to corporate boardrooms.
Regarding the pycnogenol/pine bark question, lacking any experimental evidence, i.e., scientific studies, the most cost-effective way to go that would also give you some security regarding the possibility that the generic pine bark extract is nowhere near as good--and in point of fact, we don't know, it might actually be better--would be to take some of the generic pine bark extract every morning, and take the "real" pycnogenol in the evenings. To be even safer, with the generic, buy it and hold on to it for a year or so before you use it to give time for any recall or contamination event to hit the news.
Edited by ParrotSlave, 10 March 2010 - 04:26 AM.