Debra K.W. Topham,
Director & Chief Scientist
Debra K.W. Topham, MS, CNS, specializes in reviewing food, beverage, meat, poultry, and dietary supplement labels for compliance to FDA, FTC, and USDA regulations. This includes recommending to domestic and international clients any appropriate nutrient, health and product claims based on supported science and regulations. She founded knowledge bank in 2002.
knowledge bank’s director is a classically trained food and nutrition professional with the solid experience of a corporate research scientist and home economist. Debra is recognized as a Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) for her advanced educational degrees and significant contributions to the fields of food and nutrition. She is a professional member of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) and Phi Upsilon Omicron Honor Society.
From 2006-2009, Debra helped launch the labeling and nutrition program of 2,000 products in three years for the Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market grocery chain, the USA division of Tesco PLC. She was also responsible for the adaptation and training of the Tesco Technical Library to monitor all generations of private-label formulas for due diligence and aided in product monitoring for retail store recalls and artwork generation. This software portal is now the standard for other major grocery retailers.
Debra served as project manager for human clinical research studies, scientific symposia, and nutrition conferences, especially on botanicals, plant concentrates, and human nutrition. Debra participated in more than 20 human clinical trials at multiple sites in 5 countries of the world. The Botanical Education Workshops, the Photochemical Conference: Today’s Knowledge–Tomorrow’s Products, and the Nagano (Japan) Scientific Symposium on Sports Science are representative of the technical conferences Ms. Topham coordinated. Among her many publications, she edited two internationally known books, Phytochemicals: A New Health Paradigm and Phytochemicals as Bioactive Agents by Technomic Publishing Inc. (now CRC Press).
Debra lectures at Chapman University (Orange, CA) covering food and nutrition topics along with regulatory-labeling for undergraduates and graduates in the Food Science & Nutrition Program. She is an invited lecturer at California Polytechnic University-Pomona, CSU-Northridge, CSU-LA, University of Southern California Regulatory Affairs Program (Los Angeles), and the Southern California Section of IFT.
What is a label review?What appears on a product label is not “free speech” and is governed by regulations at the federal and/or state level. knowledge bankprovides full "health checkups for your food and supplement label". Ultimately our goal is to help our clients sleep easier by reducing risk and uncertainty when it comes to what is permitted on a retail food or supplement package. We evaluate your text and designs for compliance to USA agency rules set by FDA, USDA, FTC, and even state-specific requirements. We help you ensure your label and labeling is - compliant, correct and credible. The label is everything that is adhered/printed on the package or container. knowledge bank will check other labeling information that helps sell products that are regulated the same way such as hang-tags, sell sheets, technical specification sheets, product marketing/demo team instructions, and websites. We review labels and labeling along two dimensions: 1. “Technical correctness” EX: Required elements (statement of identity, net quantity, ingredient declaration, allergen declaration, business information), font sizes, rounding rules, product specific warnings 2. Content & claims EX: Structure/function claims, marketing puffery/romance copy, suitable imagery to product identity, healthy, & dietary guidance. Our reports indicate three levels of advice with options for how to bring the text or graphics into compliance: 1. Must Change EX: The text or graphic clearly is out of compliance with government regulation(s) and Agencies may issue warning letters or 483’s if violations are found 2. Highly Recommended Change EX: Issues that are "grey”, but consumer complaints are likely or other private enforcement (lawsuits) have occurred on the topic 3. Suggested Change EX: Other issues where improvements in word choice would reduce confusion in cooking directions or strengthen a brand message
Does Knowledge Bank fix the label?Yes,knowledge bank reports include suggestions on "how to fix" the text or graphics -- We don't just tell you what's wrong. Our reports provide you the information needed to make an informed business decision. Ultimately, it's your choice “to either color within the lines or outside the lines.” However, we are not a graphic design company but can make recommendations for other firms.
What products does Knowledge Bank cover?Stand in the majority of USA grocery aisles or vitamin stores and there will be product labels on the shelf that knowledge bank has reviewed. We focus on foods and dietary supplements for U.S. commerce, including the internet. knowledge bank aids importers in converting their label formats to USA compliant versions. We cover foods and supplements intended for all age groups - infants to adults. We do NOT cover drugs, infant formula, cosmetics, alcohol, tobacco, or cannabis products but may recommend other consulting groups and law firms that could assist you.
I have had the pleasure of working with Debra and Knowledge Bank numerous times over the years. Her knowledge of regulatory requirements has been a key asset for me in the development and optimization of my clients’ products. I know I can count on the accuracy of her information and the timeliness of her response. She is a true professional in every sense of the term.
-- Barry Weinstein. Food Process Engineer
Besides being very well-versed in the technical aspects of her profession, Debra is an extremely approachable person. It isn't often that you find a person with both that level of technical competency with an engaging personality to match. I highly recommend Debra for any of your business needs. She is a true professional in every sense of the word.
-- Kurt Schneider. Consultant & Former Vice President Research & Development
Debra is very professional and detail oriented. She is an expert in her field and will help you take your business to the next level. She was hired by many of my vendors while I was at Trader Joe's for her labeling expertise and I had the privilege of working with her at Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market. Her knowledge of government compliance as it relates to food and supplement labeling is extensive. She would be a strong asset to every company she assists.
-- Annette Davidson. Consultant & Former Vice President of Operations