The recent action by the New York attorney general demanding the recall of several supplements found at major retailers including GNC, Walmart, Target and Walgreens is once again shining a negative light on the dietary supplement industry.
Although the method used to identify and analyze these botanicals and announced study results are incomplete and dubious, it does reaffirm that adulteration and contamination remains one of, if not the biggest issue impacting the dietary supplement industry.
Buying quality raw material for use in dietary supplements is not a challenge. Reputable suppliers can control the chain of custody for materials from the source to the receiving dock and have the capital strength to invest in exhaustive species identification testing, quality control and vendor surveillance programs.
That comprehensive supply chain management and quality control protocol logically translates to a higher cost for those raw materials. Manufacturers purchasing material from a broker or for significantly under market price are putting themselves at almost guaranteed risk for receiving compromised material. The cost for properly sourced and sterilized raw ingredients is nothing compared to the cost of doing damage control for a national brand.
Contamination and adulteration issues are completely preventable. It comes down to manufacturers aligning themselves with reliable ingredient suppliers who have advanced production and testing technologies, close vendor relationships, extensive documentation and industry knowledge, and legitimate certifications. This is the key to avoiding any misperceptions on the safety, quality and efficacy of your product.
Here are the questions manufacturers need to be asking their suppliers:
- Does my supplier have a comprehensive chain of custody protocol?
- What is my supplier doing to ensure the quality, consistency and safety of their products?
- Is my supplier complying with current GMPs?
- Does my supplier have a diverse vendor network to enable a reliable supply chain, especially during shortages?
- What investments is my supplier making in the latest science, technology, manufacturing and testing equipment?
- Is my supplier aligned with recognized industry trade associations.
Unfortunately, there may always be manufacturers that let price dictate their purchasing decisions, and these are the companies bringing adulterated and contaminated products into the marketplace. We need to be focusing on those manufacturers that want to do the right thing, but may not know the right questions to ask of suppliers.