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Dietary Supplements: "Not Regulated?" Claim is False

Dietary Supplements "Not Regulated!"

When you read an article in a magazine, or newspaper, you assume that what is being presented is factual. If the author states that 32% of all koala bears are left handed, you assume that there is some basis in fact for his statement. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

Sometimes the false information is a result of ignorance. The author may not have properly researched his material. Maybe he is quoting something he read, or heard, elsewhere, and neglected to verify its accuracy. Or, maybe he has a bias, and wants to believe something is true because it supports his agenda.

Often, a fact that is untrue becomes accepted as correct merely because it is repeated over and over again, but so many people.

One such piece of misinformation that is being propagated in articles and news broadcasts is that "dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA." This seems to be the politically correct position by anyone–author, speaker or news reporter–who has a negative bias against dietary supplements.

In an article by Steve Myers, in the September 2001 issue of HSR Health Supplement Retailer, he makes the following observation:

"One of the biggest concerns about media coverage is consistency. Not every news writer uses qualified sources, nor does each story feature extensive research on natural products or industry regulation. ‘What I see repeatedly in mass media is the statement that the industry is not regulated, which is just not true,’ said David Seckman, executive director of the National Nutritional Foods Association (NNFA). ‘If [mass media reporters] were using experts, they’d be able to articulate the regulations that are in place for dietary supplements, generally, and herbs, specifically,’ noted Michael McGuffin, president of the American Herbal Products Assiciation (AHPA)...."

Mr. Myers was specifically concerned about a recent series of articles on sports supplements in the New York Daily News. "At the end of its sports supplement series, the Daily News editors stated that their investigation ‘examines the impact of the unregulated supplement industry on sports.’ Yet, below that objective was a number to call ‘to report any adverse reactions or other problems with FDA-regulated products.’ Is this a mixed message?"

It certainly is a "mixed message," and it occurs all the time. In one breath they say the industry is unregulated, and in the next breath they acknowledge that the FDA has a number to use for reporting adverse reactions and other problems.

The news is full of instances where the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission have taken steps to regulate dietary supplements and the claims made on their behalf. The FDA has just recently ordered several companies that were marketing herbs that contained pyrolizidine alkaloids–Comfrey is the best example–to remove them from the market. Several times, over the years, imported herbs–especially from China–have been found to be contaminated with drugs, and they have been removed from the market. A company that had been heavily advertising a group of weight loss supplements on a home-shopping type TV show was recently fined and ordered to change their labeling. It happens all the time.

At the very least, dietary supplements are regulated the same way foods are regulated. They must meet standards of purity and potency. There are labeling requirement that must be met.

I will present specific details on the regulations in a moment. You will see exactly how dietary supplements are regulated. But first, let’s clarify this use of the term "unregulated supplements" by the media. If what I am saying is true, how can they get away with repeating this false statement as they do?

Here’s the answer. What they should be saying is that "dietary supplements are not regulated in the same way that drugs are regulated." Now, if they said<