Dietary Supplement Scaremongering by the FDA

Karen De Coster, Contributor
Activist Post

An article in the Chicago Tribune, titled “Dietary supplements: Manufacturing troubles widespread, FDA inspections show” is quite a scare piece designed to plant the seed that supplements which come from outside of the medical-pharmaceutical establishment are untested, lack rigorous federal oversight, and thus are dangerous. (You may have to sign up with a free account to view the article.)

The FDA is claiming companies that manufacture supplement products, which are consumed by half of all Americans, are in persistent violation of basic manufacturing standards. Here are two preposterous quotes from the article:

(1) “It’s downright scary,” said Daniel Fabricant, head of the FDA’s Division of Dietary Supplement Programs. “At least half of industry is failing on its face.”

(2) Bradford Williams, manager of the FDA Division of Dietary Supplement Programs, expressed exasperation while addressing an audience at SupplySide West, a large dietary supplement conference in Las Vegas in October. 

“It doesn’t seem that the firms are getting it,” Williams said. “How do I reach this industry? Do I have to use nuclear bombers to do it?”

The nuclear bombers comment is nothing short of bizarre. The FDA regulates the dietary supplement industry under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994. The FDA, however, has drafted its New Dietary Ingredient (NDI) Notification that will require the manufacturers and sellers of dietary supplements to submit NDI detailed reports on every single ingredient they have added to any of their products since 1994.

These reports will have to be supported by proof – in the form of clinical test trials or peer-reviewed articles from scientific journals – that the ingredients are effective. The manufacturers and sellers will not be able to sell their products until the FDA has completed a review and approves the ingredients for sale to the public. The intention is to severely minimize the dietary supplement industry, or put most of it out of business while manufacturers cannot possibly retroactively defend their myriad ingredients.

Yet, Frito-Lay continues to promote its junk food as “heart healthy” snacks, and General Mills can claim that its sugar-in-a-box can lower your cholesterol. Also, the “legal” and government-sanctioned suppliers of drugs continue to expand what the CDC deems an epidemic: death by Big Pharma.

Certainly, I do believe there are many inferior supplements out there, and that goes beyond the potential for poor manufacturing, non-adherence to sensible standards (such as maintaining master recipes), etc. I buy few supplements, but what I do buy is all top-quality, from premium companies, and the cost reflects that fact. But folks have a right to make these determinations for themselves.

This article first appeared at Karen De Coster, CPA is an accounting/finance professional and freelance writer covering food freedom, regulatory abuses and free market economics. Follow her on Twitter @karendecoster.

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