New York Times Publishes Exposé on Spiked Dietary Supplements

September 6, 2011

An investigation into spiked dietary supplements has the attention of industry groups.

In response to aNew York Times exposé on tainted dietary supplements in the U.S. marketplace, the Natural Products Association is reassuring the public that laws are already in place to prosecute illegal product manufacturers and that FDA already has plenty authority to enforce those laws.

The New York Times story, published on August 27, kicks off with a claim that "there is little evidence that many dietary supplements provide real health benefits." The article moves on to a central issue of illegal substances, including sildenafil (used to treat erectile dysfunction) and sibutramine (an appetite suppressant for weight loss), being marketed to U.S. consumers in the form of dietary supplements.

The author blames the ongoing spiking issue on a lack of industry self-regulation:

Industry representatives say a vast majority of supplements are safe, and they fault regulators for failing to stop the influx of illegal products from places like China. But few seem willing to tackle the problem openly. Unlike, say, the fashion industry, which has lobbied for increased regulation to combat knock-off products and has vociferously publicized the issue, the supplement industry is at best waging a whisper campaign.


On Friday, John Gay, executive director and CEO of the Natural Products Association (Washington, DC), publishes his own thoughts on the matter:

The Food and Drug Administration has all the authority it needs to regulate dietary supplements thanks to [the Dietary Supplement Health and Enforcement Act]. For example, the FDA requires a pre-market safety notification process for any new dietary ingredient meant to be marketed in a supplement. In addition, structure-function claims or health claims about supplements must be submitted to the FDA with a copy of the product label. Claims that are not truthful and misleading can result in regulatory action from either the FDA or the Federal Trade Commission. The FDA also can remove products from store shelves that it deems to be a health risk. Anyone caught selling drugs that masquerade as supplements should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Selling products containing illegal substances is a crime. It is also illegal for any manufacturer to claim that their dietary supplements prevent, mitigate, cure or treat any disease condition. We urge anyone finding dietary supplements that are incorrectly labeled to report this to the FDA.