Supplements slammed (again)

An article in the October edition of popular US lifestyle magazine Men's Health has slammed the supplements industry for engaging in what it calls sloppy and even deceitful practices. But it highlights smaller companies as the source of most problems and concedes bigger companies and mid-sized players are abiding by US Food and Drug Administration regulations.

"Dietary supplements are the ultimate merger of self-improvement and free enterprise, with the promises and pitfalls of both," writes the article's author, Jeff O'Connell. "The best supplements can help us stay strong and healthy, but the industry selling them can be a maze of good products and junk, honest companies and hucksters, sound rules and misguided regulations (none of which can be enforced easily)."

The article has Tod Cooperman, MD, president of third-party product analyst Consumerlab, stating one in four products tested by his company is problematic in some way or another and that more than half of multivitamins did not meet label claims.

Highlighting chondroitin, the article says the practise of fairy-dusting and spiking with active drug ingredients is not uncommon.

Smaller manufacturers are accused of poor quality control over raw materials, and the value of certificates of analysis are called into question. "There's an old saying: anyone with a printer can produce a Certificate of Analysis," international plant auditor Warren Majerus told the magazine.

Recently mandated GMP regulations will help curb such activities, exaggerated as they are made out to be in the article, but Loren Israelsen, president of the Utah-based United Natural Products Association (UNPA) warned the industry may face further attacks in the near future. "I believe this will be the first of many articles on this topic as we ramp up to the Olympics," he said.

The article noted GMP regulations had the potential to clean up many transgressions and also highlighted companies such as Centrum, Nature's Way, Schiff and Nature Made that were delivering on quality and reliability.

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