to SupplementQuality.com are asking about the quality of the supplements
they are taking. A recent article in Natural Health mentioning
our website and giving our phone number resulted in hundreds of
site visits and roughly 50 callers looking for information about
the quality of specific brands.
the number of independent testing programs can be counted on the
fingers of one hand. We report on them below.
Call to action: Consumers and health practitioners
are demanding reliable, high quality products. Such fundamentals
as product consistency and dosage size remain at issue for
many manufacturers. No certified, independent testing protocol
is in place to verify production quality. (See "Creating
a quality model for dietary supplements" in our "Standards
& regulations" section.
While many consumers do not recognize the extraordinary freedom
or choice in price and quality represented by the open market
for dietary supplements that exists in the US, a variety of
interests are keenly aware of the situation and seek alternative
scenarios, including federal regulation that would effectively
place supplements in the same class as pharmaceuticals. Whatever
the pros and cons of such an approach, experience in other
countries suggests the costs of supplements would skyrocket
while potency and availability would plummet.
As long as an independent certification program remains a
wish rather than a reality, producers, health providers and
consumers who believe in an open, competitive market for dietary
supplements will remain at risk. The time for action is now!
conducts independent testing of popular and widely available brands
of supplements against a high standard of quality. They examine
clinical research findings for each specific supplement to learn
"what works" -- then compare test results of brands against this
formulation. The names of brands that pass these tests are posted
on their website, www.ConsumerLab.com.
of passing brands can purchase a license to print the ConsumerLab
quality seal on the labels and literature of approved products.
ConsumerLab informs manufacturers if its brand fails the testing.
Brands that were not tested can pay a fee to have their products
keeps an updated page of current
test results available at ConsumerLab.com. This news is provided
solely from publicly available information and does not constitute
a licensed report from ConsumerLab.com.
NNFA's TruLabel program
National Nutritional Foods Association (NNFA) is a trade organization
that represents more than 1000 manufacturers and 3000 retailers
of health foods, dietary supplements, natural ingredient cosmetics
and other natural products. Members who produce dietary supplements
are required to pass TruLabel inspection (an independent testing
program) to ensure that the contents of a bottle matches its label.
of companies that pass this independent testing program are published
in NNFA's newsletter NNFA Today. However, only NNFA members
can subscribe to this newsletter, so this information is not available
to the public.
a variety of technical difficulties have made it impossible to test
the full range of popular dietary supplements. Sometimes, the presence
of one ingredient interferes with the accuracy of testing for another.
For some ingredients, the results of one kind of test can differ
from those of another -- so the question of which test to use is
still the subject of debate. NNFA told us that they were able to
test only about half of the supplements on the market.
more information about the challenges of developing rigorous, reliable
tests, see our interviews with Mark
Lange and Loretta Zapp
at the Institute for Nutraceutical Advancement.)
Consumer Reports Online
Reports has conducted independent testing of a wide range of
products for decades. Supported entirely by consumer subscriptions
(the publication takes no advertising), their independence and integrity
are unquestioned. Recently Consumer Reports has begun to
scrutinize supplements as well as automobiles, toasters, and dishwashers.
searched Consumer Reports Online (www.ConsumerReports.org) for "dietary
supplement", "vitamin", and "mineral" -- and came up with the following
Medicine, treating ten common conditions" (including arthritis
and high cholesterol), and including a reader survey showing how
thousands fared with complementary and standard medicine. May
lowdown on SAM-e." October 1999.
you taking too much medicine?" (Including vitamins.) March 2000.
supplements: Which might harm? Which might help?" March 1999.
supplements: Lead in supplements and antacid tablets." February
estrogen from plants?" January 1999.
and flu, what to do?" (Including vitamins.) January 1999.
you paying too much?" (For vitamins, among other things. Discusses
how prices of similar products can vary depending on who's being
targeted.) October 1998.
takes a different kind of approach, which is no less valuable for
being subjective. In addition to publishing both news and information
about specific supplements and research results, SupplementWatch
reviews products and recommend brands that score 80% or higher in
their rating system. Supplement ratings cover five basic areas;
each area is worth up to 20 points. (A rating of 100 would be a
What is the product supposed to do? Are the health claims reasonable?
How is the product supposed to work? Is the theory sound? Is there
a proposed and logical mechanism of action?
support: Has the supplement been tested? What kinds of studies
have been done -- and of what quality?
Are there any side effects? What kinds of toxicity studies have
been done? What dosage levels are safe or unsafe? Are there any
known interactions with drugs or other supplements?
Is this supplement worth its price? How does this supplement compare
to others in the same category for taste, convenience, availability,
consumer service, and overall quality of ingredients?
the research, testing and standardization programs that will eventually
lead to enhanced quality in dietary supplements are only partly
in place, a dramatic increase in interest and use of supplements
suggests positive change will continue. SupplementQuality.com
urges energetic action on the part of industry and consumers to
speed the day when both public and professional confidence in the
quality of dietary supplements equals or exceeds that of pharmaceuticals.