When the NSF was first founded in 1944, the letters "NSF" stood for National Sanitation Foundation. The organization underwent an official name change in 1990 to NSF International. Today, the company states that the letters "NSF" do not stand for anything. Recognized as a leader in independent product testing, NSF provides certification to products of companies seeking to show consumers that they are compliant with health and safety standards. This certification benefits the reputation of the product and that of the company.
An International Organization
NSF's trademarked slogan is "The Public Health and Safety Company." This nonprofit organization does not work for governments. NSF, instead, independently focuses on public health and safety in the food industry, water supply, consumer products and human environments -- both indoors and outdoors. With headquarters in Ann Arbor, Michigan, NSF conducts operations around the globe, serving clients in more than 80 countries.
For companies wanting to obtain NSF certification, the organization offers specific information on steps to take, depending on the type of product. Companies choose the relevant product category, such as gas distribution products or dietary supplements, for example, to receive standards information. The company representative then contacts the nearest NSF location. The agency provides a quote for desired services and guides the manufacturer or distributor through the certification process.
Apply for Approval
Although each type of product requires particular steps to be followed to obtain certification, as a general rule seven steps are involved in the process, according to the NSF. First, the company submits an application and information on the product or products to be certified.
Evaluation and Testing
NSF employs professionals in different fields, such as chemists, engineers, environmental health professionals, microbiologists, public health experts and toxicologists. This diverse team evaluates and tests products ranging from bottled water to plumbing products to cosmetics to auto parts, among others. These are the second and third steps in the certification process.
In the fourth step, the manufacturing location is inspected and products are sampled. Fifth, the test results are reviewed and accepted. A contract is signed and the approved product is listed with the NSF in the sixth step. In the final step -- repeated annually -- NSF personnel conduct surprise inspections in manufacturing plants that produce certified products and products are retested.
After receiving NSF certification, a product can carry the NSF mark. Companies can choose to use the familiar standard certification, a blue circle with "NSF" inside in white lettering, or simply the letters "NSF" followed by a unique set of identifying numerical and alphabetical characters. Both symbols offer consumers the reassurance that the product is safe for use or consumption.