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Testing Dietary Supplements

Testing Dietary Supplements

October 11, 2007 —

Before you pop the next vitamin, mineral or sports nutrition product, ask yourself what’s really in it. Dietary supplements have been unregulated by the U.S. government since 1994, when Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA). The law left it up to the manufacturers to ensure the safety of the products, with the FDA taking responsibility for unsafe products only after they hit the market.

Safety concerns about the manufacture of dietary supplements include serious side effects and failed treatments.  In the absence of government regulations, private testing companies have emerged.  These companies often charge a fee for an “approval seal”—if a product has passed its test.

Some consider it unethical that the lab’s results are tied to profit as much as health and safety. And testing results they publish continue to be disturbing. ConsumerLab, a testing company, found that 25 percent of the products they test fail in some way.  Some lack the advertised ingredients or the promised levels. Others are laced with contaminants.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is starting to crack down on companies producing dietary supplements—again, only after the products have hit the market—by enforcing rules to ensure that supplements do not contain contaminants or impurities and that labels are accurate.  But supplement makers have three years to comply with the FDA’s enforcement measurements.  That means it’s up to you to choose a supplier which follows a code of ethics regarding health and safety.

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