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Natural Foods Merchandiser

NFM Secret Shopper: Are all weight loss supplements spiked?

NFM Secret Shopper: Are all weight loss supplements spiked?
Each month, NFM’s secret shopper heads incognito into a natural products store with a question. The employee’s answer—and our expert’s evaluation of the response—is reported here. Our aim: to help you improve your store’s customer service.

Natural Foods Merchandiser: I’m looking for a supplement to support weight loss, but Dr. Mehmet Oz says many are spiked with harmful ingredients. How can I find a product that’s safe?

Store (independent natural products store in the West): I’m not exactly sure what Dr. Oz might mean. Perhaps it’s just that some supplements contain caffeine and some have ephedra? You’ll want to read labels and avoid these ingredients if you have any sensitivities. Let me show you what we carry.

How did this retailer do?

Our expert educator: Isabel De Los Rios, certified nutritionist and cofounder of, an online community that supports healthy lifestyles

Retailers should research every product they carry to ensure they’re providing the safest and highest quality items. Because new information comes out in the media so frequently—daily, even multiple times a day—it may seem impossible to keep up. But you have to try. Whenever a retailer gets a question she’s not familiar with, I suggest she read up on the topic so she can be ready with an answer for next time. After all, if one shopper has a question, chances are another will ask something similar very soon.

In The Dr. Oz Show episode on weight-loss supplements that I believe the customer is referring to, half of the products he featured had tested positive for undeclared pharmaceutical ingredients. Dr. Oz emphasized that viewers could buy these products anywhere, but many had labels with Chinese characters, poorly translated language or incomplete lists of ingredients, so I doubt natural products stores that are scrupulous about sourcing and transparency would carry them. Still, the doctor did make a few points retailers and consumers would be wise to note.

Dr. Oz and I both suggest staying away from products that make miracle or unsubstantiated claims. Also, when shoppers don’t recognize an ingredient on a product label, they should consult store staff. Retailers should know their inventory up and down and ask manufacturers tough questions to ensure products are top quality. They can meet with vendors in person and ask about third-party certifications and testing. This knowledge can save consumers and retailers a lot of time and money in the long run.

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