I get asked this question all the time: "How can I be sure a supplement isn't contaminated?" or "How can I be certain of a product's ingredients? What if it has ingredients from China? Are any supplements safe?" Now, media coverage of a review of the thousands of supplements on the market by Consumer Reports seems to suggest that NO supplement is safe. Media quickly picked up on the usual buzz-words: "cancer," "liver damage." Consumer Reports takes issue particularly with the FDA and DSHEA (the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, the current laws governing dietary supplements) and singles out twelve supplements tied to adverse effects.
The truth is that the supplement industry—as a whole—isn't the unwieldy and irresponsible beast that Consumer Reports implies. For a quantitative look at their "dirty dozen," check out this analysis from Nutrition Business Journal. In an article on our sister publication, Natural Foods Merchandizer, Mark Blumenthal of the American Botanical Council sums it up well: "They’re taking an anti-industry position. But the industry is extremely pluralistic. There are many reputable members."
Should you simply give up on supplements? Of course not. Should you be cautious? Absolutely. The bottom line is that supplement safety is largely in your hands. Organizations like NSF International can help you make an informed decision about the supplements you take. Many responsible companies, such as Nordic Naturals, also perform in-house testing in addition to obtaining 3rd-party verification to ensure that their products are safe and free of contaminants. And Gaia Herbs recently launched their Meet Your Herb program which allows shoppers to enter a code located on the box of any of their products to see where the herbs were grown, when they were harvested, and results of potency and purity testing. Read more about what you can do to be sure that your supplements are safe.