Most people will take an over-the-counter dietary supplement at some time. These supplements range from multi-vitamins to help supplement a subpar diet to ginkgo biloba to help boost memory. Many people take dietary supplements without a second thought because they believe that it can only benefit their health. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not strictly regulate this industry and some supplements may actually be manufactured using harmful ingredients or in hazardous conditions.
According the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, a dietary supplement is “a product (other than tobacco) intended to supplement the diet that bears or contains one or more of the following dietary ingredients: a vitamin, mineral, herb or other botanical, or amino acid.”
The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) allows dietary supplements to be marketed and sold with little regulatory oversight. Companies do not need to provide evidence that their products contain what is listed on their labels and do not need approval from the Food and Drug Administration to sell their supplements. Companies that manufacture dietary supplements also do not need to provide evidence to the FDA that their product is safe before marketing it to the public. Dietary supplements are considered safe until proven otherwise, which usually occurs after serious injury to an individual.
Although the FDA does not directly regulate the dietary supplement industry, the agency still has some authority in overseeing the safety of such products. The DSHEA gives the FDA the authority to set good manufacturing practice (GMP) regulations for dietary supplements. If these are not met, the FDA can issue consumer alert warnings about tainted products and can send warning letters to supplement makers. The FDA must provide the proof that a supplement is unsafe before any actions can be taken to remove it from the market or limit its use. After a dietary supplement is on the market, the FDA can evaluate its safety. If they find the product to be unsafe, the FDA can take action against the manufacturer or distributor.
There are steps you can take to ensure you are safely taking a dietary supplement:
- Talk with your health care provider. They can help you choose one that is safe and they also have access to the latest medical guidance. It is especially important to speak with your health care provider if you are taking medications because some supplements can interact negatively with medications.
- Follow the instructions on the label. Consuming an excess amount of vitamins from supplements can harm your health.
Do you think dietary supplements are safe with current practices or do you think that the FDA should step in and a play a larger role in the regulation of products?