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DSQI Launches Unique Quality Survey
8 August 2003
by Wyn Snow, Managing Editor

Wyn Snow, executive editor of the Dietary Supplement Quality Initiative, today announced the introduction of a new on-line survey on the DSQI website, SupplementQuality.com. The survey, directed at supplement users, scrutinizes the quality of specific dietary supplements from alanine to zinc, closing a gap left by major supplement quality certifying organizations.

The survey, while subjective and partly anecdotal, nevertheless allows individual consumers to use uniform grading scales to comment freely on their level of satisfaction with particular supplements. Aggregated survey data makes it possible to discern broad trends in consumer preference and related opinion. Survey results are immediately available to registered visitors to the SupplementQuality.com site. Once a substantial amount of consumer data is gathered, these results will become meaningful.

This survey will allow individual consumers as well as interested individuals and organizations to gain immediate access to information on supplement preference and satisfaction by brand, product name, or type.

Information on quality of brands is difficult to find

Commenting on the new service, Snow said, "Investigating the quality of specific products is challenging. There are about 1500 manufacturers and repackagers of dietary supplements in the US, many offering hundreds of products. A repackager is a company that buys a supplement from a different manufacturer and then markets this product under its own brand label. Most store brands, CVS being one example, fall into this category. The end result is hundreds of thousands of individual products in the marketplace."

To date, consumer preference data on supplement quality has been limited to marketing surveys done privately by manufacturers and marketers, and therefore is not available to the public.

Among the four main certifying organizations, all operate with limited resources and must focus on what they do best. Thus, ConsumerLab.com tests only the major brands of the few dozen most popular supplements. Three other organizations conduct inspections of manufacturing plants for compliance with good manufacturing practices: NSF International (NSF), the National Nutritional Foods Association (NNFA), and the US Pharmacopoeia (USP). Both NSF and USP also conduct individual product testing. However inspection and testing programs cover no more than several dozen major manufacturers. (See our story on Four Quality Certifying Programs.)

For other brands, consumers are left in the dark

Consumers wondering about smaller companies or products outside the "most popular" categories have had no resources for discovering an unbiased assessment of quality. Nonetheless, among the 20,000+ visitors to the SupplementQuality.com website in a typical month, many ask about the quality of their favorite brands of dietary supplements. Often, these brands, products, or manufacturers are not among those tested by ConsumerLab or inspected by NSF International, NNFA or USP.

In searching the web, SupplementQuality.com found no additional resources for making a widespread assessment of which brands and products are the best—or the worst—in the marketplace, and therefore decided to launch its own survey of dietary supplement quality. Now, consumers can share their own knowledge and experiences with specific brands of supplements, both good and bad.

Survey creates useful guideline

Even though a survey of user experience is not scientific in the sense of laboratory testing of particular products, the aggregated data will aid consumers in making judgments about which companies and products represent superior value. People who participate in the survey can gain immediate information about the experiences of other participants.

The survey design includes several features that minimize the ability of supplement manufacturers to participate in the survey themselves and thereby skew the results. And the more consumers who participate, the smaller the impact of any such attempts to distort a product's rating.

Consumers helping consumers

Ultimately, this survey is a mutual-help program for consumers, allowing them to benefit from the knowledge and experiences of other consumers. By putting unbiased, objective, noncommercial information into the hands of people who use dietary supplements, this survey highlights which companies, brands and products are preferred by consumers.

Snow notes, "This Dietary Supplement Quality Opinion Survey is unique. There is nothing else even remotely like it on the Web."end-of-story


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