By law, US companies can’t market supplements that are “adulturated or misbranded,” but no testing or approval is required.
A recent DNA analysis of several herbal supplements (sold at big name retailers like Target and Walgreen’s) showed that some of them didn’t contain any of their purported ingredients.
The New York attorney general called for the products to be taken off the shelves on the basis of those results, although recently experts have identified potential problems with the test that was used.
Even if the results turn out to be wrong, we still know that such a situation is possible, given the lack of oversight.
If you do take supplements, how can you give yourself the best chance of buying ones that contain what you expect, no more and no less?
You can also look up your favorite supplements with these organizations and databases that report the results of supplement tests:
- NSF Certified for Sport
- The United States Pharmacopeia‘s verified supplement list
- The Natural Products Foundation, funded by the supplement industry
- Labdoor, which sells and tests supplements
- Consumerlab, another independent group
Supplements may not always contain what’s on the label, but with these tips and databases, you can be more confident that you know what you’re getting.
I looked into these databases and found that hardly any supplements are tested by independent organizations.
I was disappointed, though not surprised, that only a tiny minority are guaranteed to contain exactly what it says on the label. That certainly explains why we get such variable responses from them.
Then more recently, there’s this:
CVS Pharmacy Introduces Third Party Testing for All Dietary Supplements – By Steve Duffy – May 17, 2019
Vitamins and supplements sold at CVS Pharmacy will now go through third party testing to verify the accuracy of the dietary ingredients listed on the packaging and to confirm that the product is free of certain additives
The “Tested to Be Trusted” program requires all dietary supplement products sold by CVS to be
- certified by NSF International (a global public health testing organization),
- verified by USP (United States Pharmacopeia),
- or go through CVS Pharmacy’s required third party testing program through NSF or Eurofins, a laboratory specializing in food, pharmaceutical and environmental testing.
The testing includes verification of the dietary ingredients listed on the supplemental facts panel as well as a review of contaminants to ensure no harmful levels of a particular contaminant are present.
The Company states that over 1400 vitamins and supplements have already completed testing;
7% of the tested products failed which resulted in an update to the supplemental facts panel or removal of the product from stores and online.
This low percentage is very different from the inverse that’s found in most studies, so I have to wonder how the results that CVS is announcing are being manipulated to show such good results.
I especially distrust the results of supplements going through “CVS Pharmacy’s required third-party testing”, which may be made to look positive though extreme bias.