Consumer Reports Finds Many Dietary Supplements Tainted

We’ve long been following the issue with tainted supplements and recalled<""> dietary supplement products. No small issue given that tainted herbal supplements easily make their way to marketplace and consumers homes. Now, Reuters reports that some commonly used supplements contain dangerous ingredients.

Products are generally recalled after having been found to contain undeclared or dangerous ingredients or because herbal ingredients have been linked to dangerous reactions. According to Consumer Reports, said Reuters, Americans spend millions of dollars on products that cause “cancer, heart problems, and liver or kidney damage.” Today, the magazine published a report pointing to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) lack of jurisdiction in regulating supplements and also how it doesn’t take the steps it can, noted Reuters. The report asks Congress to give the FDA more supplement regulation oversight, explained Reuters.

“Of the more than 54,000 dietary supplement products in the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, only about a third have some level of safety and effectiveness that is supported by scientific evidence,” the report reads, wrote Reuters. Worse, not one supplement factory in China has ever been inspected by the FDA despite that it set up field offices there in 2008, said Consumer Reports.

Reuters wrote that, according to Consumer Reports, 12 supplement ingredients could pose dangers—aconite, bitter orange, chaparral, colloidal silver, coltsfoot, comfrey, country mallow, germanium, greater celandine, kava, lobelia, and yohimbe—“such as liver and kidney damage, heart rhythm disorders, and unhealthy blood pressure levels.”

Consumer Reports’ is also concerned with the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), which it said is industry friendly and does not enable the FDA to regulate supplements as prescription medications, said Reuters. Of note, added Reuters, the Federal Trade Commission (FCC) is the agency that regulates herbal supplement marketing, which includes a ban on claims of medical condition treatment.

“Supplements are marketed with very seductive and sometimes overblown sales pitches for increasing your performance in the bedroom, slimming down, or boosting your athletic prowess,” said Nancy Metcalf, senior program editor for Consumer Reports. “And consumers are easily lulled into believing that supplements can do no harm because they’re ‘natural’,” Metcalf noted, quoted Reuters.

To date, the FDA has only ever banned one supplement ingredient: ephedrine alkaloids. “However, some natural ingredients can be hazardous, and on top of that the FDA has repeatedly found hazardous ingredients, including synthetic prescription drugs, in supplements,” said Metcalf, wrote Reuters.

We recently wrote that The New York Times reported that of all of the herbal dietary supplements recently tested as part of a Congressional investigation, most contained some amounts of contaminants, including the dangerous toxic metal, lead.

According to a prior Wall Street Journal report, about two-thirds of all Americans take dietary supplements such as, “vitamins, minerals, and herbal products,” according to industry trade group, the Council for Responsible Nutrition. Supplements made from products available on the U.S. market prior to 1994 can be sold without agency review, including a wide variety currently available, said the Journal. Sellers of products containing substances unavailable prior to 1994, need only advise the FDA and do not require approval to be sold, said the Journal.

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