What Is the Difference Between UL and NSF?


Quick Answer

NSF International and Underwriter's Laboratories, or UL, are separate organizations dedicated to safety standards in a variety of fields. NSF International is an independent third-party nonprofit specializing in public health and safety-based risk management solutions. The organization taps regulators, industry, consumers and public health experts in order to devise uniform, consensus-based national standards. Items that meet these standards are given a NSF mark. UL is a private company that advises and tests a client company's products to ensure safety.

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Full Answer

Underwriter's Laboratories is a conglomeration of three separate companies that bear the same name. The first focuses on Commercial and Industrial applications, subjecting its clients' products to vigorous testing in order to ensure that they are up to the challenges of a global marketplace. Approved products are granted one of the company's globally recognized marks or standards, clearly indicating that they are UL-compliant. The Consumer branch of the company focuses on helping businesses ensure that their entire supply chain, from raw materials to sales transactions, is safe, socially responsible and compliant with all industry regulations. Finally, UL Ventures assists companies in addressing new challenges in product safety, with divisions dedicated to environmental impact, safety information on global supply chains, workplace safety and global regulatory approvals geared toward the medical, pharmaceutical and laboratory industries.

NSF International began as the National Sanitation Foundation, but changed its name in 1990 as it adopted a more global reach with less of a focus on sanitation. The organization is responsible for over 90 public health and safety American National Standards and an additional 30 protocols for products ranging from appliances to drinking water filters.

While the two organizations are separate with parallel goals, both are members and audited designators of the American National Standards Institute. UL also certifies some products as NSF-compliant, as of 2015.

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