Results from a new PEW Charitable Trusts dietary supplement survey show that consumers largely find dietary supplements to be safe. The survey also found that consumers support the idea of a mandatory FDA supplement product listing.
Out of a total of 1,000 survey respondents, 85% stated they believe dietary supplements to be safe. Here, dietary supplements were defined as “products that include vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, and other substances such as fish oil and melatonin.”
Despite the favorable view of dietary supplements generally, these views changed when respondents were questioned about more specific supplement categories, such as weight management, sports nutrition, and sexual performance. Only 26% of survey respondents believe weight management products are safe, while 58% believe sports nutrition products are safe and 40% believe sexual performance products are safe.
The results also reveal that a majority of survey respondents do not know how FDA regulates dietary supplements under The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA); many erroneously believe that dietary supplement products undergo premarket approval. When informed that dietary supplements do not undergo premarket approval, a majority (71%) of respondents felt that FDA could not sufficiently protect consumers from harmful products, and 95% supported an FDA-mandatory listing of dietary supplement products so that FDA would know what products are on the market.
The idea of a mandatory product listing has become a topic of serious discussion within the industry, and The Council for Responsible Nutrition’s (CRN; Washington, DC) voluntary registry, called the Supplement OWL, serves as a possible framework for a mandatory registry in the future. The PEW survey hints at the power that a mandatory registry could have in improving consumer confidence in the supplement industry.