New alliance will crack down on adulterated products touting dietary supplement claims

WASHINGTON — The dietary supplement industry’s leading trade associations on Wednesday joined forces with the Food and Drug Administration to support heightened efforts to address public health problems posed by products that are illegally marketed as dietary supplements but contain the same active ingredients as FDA-approved drugs or other ingredients that do not qualify as dietary ingredients.

The FDA’s concerns focus on three categories of products particularly susceptible to spiking with undisclosed ingredients: weight loss, sexual enhancement and body building, all categories in which consumers may be looking for immediate or dramatic results. In a letter to the industry asking for support to address this problem, the agency signaled its acknowledgment that there are legitimate dietary supplement products in these three categories, noting that adulterated products “undermine confidence in legitimately marketed dietary supplements in these and other categories.”

Agreeing that this issue is a high concern, the industry trade associations committed to remain vigilant in their monitoring of the full supply chain and selection of ingredient suppliers; review manufacturing and quality assurance activities to ensure the legality, quality and safety of products, particularly those most vulnerable to potential adulteration; and make use of the new tools the FDA has made available to the industry to report any suspected tainted supplement ingredients or finished products.

The industry coalition included representatives from the American Herbal Products Association, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, the Council for Responsible Nutrition, the Natural Products Association and the United Natural Products Alliance. The industry trade associations pledged their support to help the FDA rid the market of illegal products that both pose a danger to consumers and tarnish the reputation of the legitimate supplement industry.

The industry coalition also endorsed the FDA’s actions to use its regulatory muscle to hold accountable those who violate the law and jeopardize the public health, using tough criminal sanctions when appropriate.

Furthermore, this industry coalition supported the agency’s efforts to alert consumers to areas of potential concern and to provide tips for selection of supplements, such as buying from legitimate companies and sources with strong reputations — and not to purchase products with claims that sound too good to be true or suggest drug-like effects when they are marketed as supplements.

Consumers also should be wary of products that boast they are of limited availability, only available for a short time or are “barely legal,” as these claims may indicate there already may be legitimate concerns about their safety.

This initiative should serve as a strong warning to criminals. “Those who purposefully spike products are not legitimate dietary supplement companies, and the supplement industry is actively committed to being a part of this problem’s solution,” the coalition stated.

The efforts were praised by the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, the nation's leading Hispanic health advocacy group, said, "[the] action by the FDA will help clean up the industry, return consumer confidence about the safety of the products available and save lives."

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