Many US consumers believe that their diet is inadequate to provide them with all of their nutritional needs. Others believe that there are natural solutions to common physical ailments. Consumers have turned to dietary supplements as a means of supporting their health and lifestyles. Retailers, large and small, in store and on-line, are profiting from these products. Recent investigations, however, suggest that profits are being made on supplements that are missing important ingredients.
On Monday, the New York State attorney general’s office alleged that certain national retailers were selling dietary supplements that were fraudulent and in many cases contaminated with unlisted ingredients. Tests were performed on popular store brands of herbal supplements at the retailers — Walmart, Walgreens, Target and GNC — which showed that roughly eighty percent (80%) of the products contained none of the herbs listed on their labels. In an ironic twist, authorities suggested that the supplements contained little more than cheap fillers like rice and house plants, or substances that could be hazardous to people with food allergies.
Dietary supplements do not undergo the same level of scrutiny as prescription drugs. The Food and Drug Administration regulates both finished dietary supplement products and dietary ingredients under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994. Although dietary supplement manufacturers must register their facilities with FDA, they are not required to get FDA approval before producing or selling dietary supplements. Manufacturers who fail to make sure that all claims and information on the product label and in other labeling are truthful and not misleading subject themselves to federal enforcement actions. Some states also have complimentary laws to protect consumers in these situations.