Second Major Sports Supplement Recall Could Slow Internet Sales


Continuing its crackdown on dietary supplement products that contain potentially harmful steroid ingredients, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a voluntary recall of multiple muscle-building products that were being sold by MuscleMaster.com, Inc. The recall, which identified 17 different products, comes two months after BodyBuilding.com announced a voluntary recall of 65 products that the FDA believes should be classified as steroids. Eleven of the supplements identified in the MuscleMaster.com recall were also a part of the BodyBuilding.com recall—sending a clear message that any retailer currently offering products on either of the recall lists should immediately stop selling the unlawful products.

With two major online supplement retailers being forced to suspend sales on a significant number of products, there are concerns that the recall may not only result in lost sales—but it could also turn away new potential consumers who are now shying away from online purchases over safety concerns. That could significantly slow some of the most impressive growth that the industry has seen in recent years. Online supplement outlets such as BodyBuilding.com have experienced a recent spike in popularity and converted that into massive sales growth. The company received an NBJ Business Achievement award for its 47% expansion in 2008. U.S. sports supplement sales on the Internet totaled $231 million on 50% growth in 2008.

There is now reason to believe that both the category and the sales channel could be losing momentum due to the recent recalls, as well as a wave of negative press, including a public campaign for legislative reform by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and a particularly damning—and one-sided—article that ran in the May 2009 issue of Sports Illustrated and implicated the industry as a “Pandora’s Box of false claims, untested products and bogus science.”

Preliminary 2009 Nutrition Business Journal projections indicate that sports supplement sales on the internet will grow at a healthy, but slightly slower, 34% pace. The upcoming year will be a better indicator of how well the category can hold up to increased scrutiny and a weeding out of the bad actors. Further FDA recalls and/or legislative action could permanently impact this volatile segment of the nutrition industry.

Related NBJ Links:
Where’s the Balance? SI Continues Attack on Supplements
Is USADA’s ‘Supplement Safety Now’ Campaign a Threat to DSHEA?
FDA Files Motion to Shut Down Three Sports Supplement Manufacturers

Related Functional Ingredients Magazine links:
Bodybuilding.com Pulls 65 Potentially Juiced-Up Products

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