Should the Vitamin & Food Supplement Industry be more regulated?
Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Monday, February 11, 2013
If a container says there are a dozen eggs in it, there should be 12 eggs.
If a container says the contents are a pint, there should be 16 ounces.
If a container says the weight of a product is 5 pounds, it should weigh 5 pounds.
And if a container says that each pill has 45 milligrams of a certain ingredient, each pill should contain 45 milligrams of that ingredient.
Pretty straight forward stuff, eh?
But, were you aware that some of the vitamins and other food supplements you may take are not as highly regulated as either over-the-counter or even prescription medicines?
For example, there is so little oversight for standards in the vitamin and food supplement industry that a recent letter was published in a widely known, and highly respected professional healthcare journal that detailed the findings of recent research which found significant problems in samples of one vitamin at pharmacies as prescription items, and non-prescription.
And yet, the Vitamin and Food Supplement industry in the United States has for years resisted any oversight, rule or regulation pertaining to consumer safety, including verifiable claims made upon labeling.
It’s simply a truth in labeling standard.
There are laws regulating such. But to date, the Vitamin and Food Supplement industry giants have resisted any effort to be accountable, other than complying with the Food and Drug Administration’s requirement that state the product is not meant to treat or cure any disease or health problem.
Yet from the perspective of a healthcare professional, and that of a consumer, it seems to me that if a thing is sold and the labeling on the thing sold identifies the contents as being either a certain weight, or possessing a certain number of items in content, or that each item contained has a certain value, those claims should be verifiable. Period.
The United States Food and Drug administration is charged with the oversight and protection of the general public by ensuring that safe standards are continually met, and that purity of medicines and foods are consistent, and obeyed by every manufacturer, wholesaler and retailer.
In general terms, in this nation, there is an ongoing battle straining against regulatory authority, both at the state and federal levels – particularly and especially at the federal. Political ideologues claim that “there is too much government!” While on the other hand, many recognize that the Utopian fantasy land of “free market self-regulation” has never genuinely worked.
So it should come as no surprise that recently, it was publicized in a USA Today news story that samples of Vitamin D – from over the counter sales and compounding pharmacies – were so varied in quality that content of the vitamin pills themselves varied from containing as little as 9% of the labeled dose to over 140% of the labeled dose.
That can be dangerous.
Erin LeBlanc, Lead Researcher and Endocrinologist who headed the investigaton conducted at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon, said, “We found the potency of these vitamin D supplements varied widely.”
This is not the first time such findings have been made.
In 2009, ConsumerLab.com found that more than 33% of all multivitamins they tested were either contaminated, or contained significantly more or less ingredients than their labels claimed.
Make no mistake – the “Dietary Supplement” industry is BIG BUSINESS in the United States. The Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health says sales account for over $30 BILLION annually.
The independent testing group, the U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) found that of all samples taken, the closest match was with one brand which had a USP mark.
John Atwater, Director of the Verification Program at the non-profit USP said “It’s not surprising that they found a lot of products that were not meeting label claims.”
It may come as a shock to some, but USA Today cited Mr. Atwater, who told the newspaper that Vitamin and Food Supplement makers are not like drug companies in one very important regard, because they are not required to prove that their products are safe and effective before selling them.
The only thing the Food and Drug Administration can do is to inspect supplement manufacturing plants for “Good Manufacturing Practices” and issue warnings to any of them for violating such guidelines under regulations that were finalized in 2007. But even then, the FDA does not test every product, even at plants under inspection.
What’s more important – your health, or their pocket book?
Shouldn’t the Vitamin and Food Supplement industry be required to adhere to certain standards of purity and content?
Isn’t your health worth it?